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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES 4
EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN 6 EAMES ALUMINUM GROUP CHAIRS 8 EAMES MOLDED PLYWOOD CHAIR 10 EAMES MOLDED PLASTIC ARMCHAIR 12 EAMES ELLIPTICAL TABLE 14 40 32
34 TULIP COLLECTION 36 WOMB LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN 38 EXECUTIVE CHAIR
GEORGE NELSON ISAMU NOGUCHI LE CORBUSIER VERNER PANTON
ARNE JACOBSEN 16
EGG CHAIR 18
42 NELSON COCONUT CHAIR 44 NELSON MARSHMALLOW SOFA 46
EERO AARNIO 20
BALL CHAIR 22
48 NOGUCHI TABLE 50
A COLLECTION OF FURNITURE CLASSICS FROM THE
LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE 24
BARCELONA CHAIR 26
52 LC2 COLLECTION 54
GREATEST DESIGNERS OF THE OF THE MID-CENTURY ERA
BY JIMMY MORRISSEY
FLORENCE KNOLL 28
FLORENCE KNOLL LOUNGE COLLECTION 30
56 PANTON CHAIR
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
CHARLES AND RAY ACHIEVED THEIR MONUMENTAL SUCCESS
BY APPROACHING EACH PROJECT
ith a grand sense of adventure, Charles and Ray Eames turned their curiosity and boundless enthusiasm into creations that established them evolved over time, not overnight. As Charles noted about the development of the Molded Plywood Chairs, “Yes, it was a flash of inspiration,” he said, “a kind of 30-year flash.” With these two, one thing always seemed to lead to another. Their revolutionary work in molded plywood led to their breakthrough work in molded fiberglass seating. A magazine contest led to their highly innovative “Case Study” house. Their love of photography led to film making, including a huge seven-screen presentation at the Moscow World’s Fair in 1959, in a dome designed by their friend and colleague, Buckminster Fuller. Graphic design led to showroom design, toy collecting to toy inventing. And a wooden plank contraption, rigged up by their friend, director Billy Wilder for taking naps, led to their acclaimed chaise design. A design critic once said that this extraordinary couple “just wanted to make the world a better place.” That they did. They also made it a lot more interesting. 5 as a truly great husband-and-wife design team. Their unique synergy led to a whole new look in furniture. Lean and modern. Playful and functional. Sleek, sophisticated, and beautifully simple. That was and is the “Eames look.” That look and their relationship with Herman Miller started with molded plywood chairs in the late 1940s and includes the worldrenowned Eames lounge chair, now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They loved their work, which was a combination of art and science, design and architecture, process and product, style and function. “The details are not details,” said Charles. “They make the product.” A problem-solver who encouraged experimentation among his staff, Charles once said his dream was “to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts.” Their own concepts 4
THEINTEREST AND INTRIGUE US? SAME WAY: DOES IT
WILL WE HAVE “SERIOUS FUN” DOING IT?
CAN WE MAKE IT BETTER?
EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN
HERMAN MILLER • 1956
Who doesn’t recognize the Eames lounge chair and ottoman? It lives in museums like MoMA in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, in stylish interiors everywhere, and as a tattoo on a devotee’s arm. It has been the subject of documentary films and books. It even has its own fan website. Calling it va classic is an understatement. It’s the quintessential example of mid-century design—elegant and profoundly comfortable too. The first Eames lounge chair and ottoman was made as a gift for Billy Wilder, the director of “Some Like It Hot,” “Irma La Douce,” and “Sunset Blvd.” The heritage of the chair goes back to the molded plywood chairs pioneered by the Eameses in the 1940s. Charles Eames said his goal for the chair was that it be “a special refuge from the strains of modern living.” The first lounge chair and ottoman produced by Herman Miller, in 1956, made 6 Francis ended the segment by quoting something she said she had read about Charles and Ray: “The Eameses’ desire to move freely in a world of enormous and unlimited possibilities is combined with a very accurate sense of discrimination and taste. It’s an ability to select among the unlimited possibilities and return considerable richness to the world.” Starting at $3,899 • hermanmiller.com
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
its public debut on Arlene Francis’s Home show, a predecessor of the Today show. Commenting on the unique design, Charles Eames told Francis, “We’ve never designed for a fashion, and the Herman Miller furniture company has never, ever requested that we do pieces for a market.” During the interview, a short film was shown in which a man--Charles described him as “a typical Herman Miller employee”-assembled and disassembled the lounge chair, showing how simple the design was.
EAMES ALUMINUM GROUP CHAIRS
HERMAN MILLER • 1958
Among the buildings Eero Saarinen designed in Columbus was J. Irwin Miller’s home. Saarinen wanted a high-quality seating product for outdoor use at the home and asked Charles and Ray Eames to develop one. The Eameses accepted the challenge. Known for their honest use of materials, the Eameses constructed their chairs with cast aluminum and a seat frame that would support a stretched synthetic mesh. The seat-back suspension they developed was a major technical achievement and represented a departure from the concept of the chair as a solid shell. The Aluminum Group chairs were made for indoor use in 1958, and they have been in continuous production ever since. The original mesh was discontinued shortly after its introduction in favor of fabric and leather, ribbed at 1 7/8-inch intervals for a clean, refined appearance. In 1969, the Eameses extended the original design by adding plush, individually upholstered cushions. They 8 It’s a trick only Charles and Ray Eames could pull off: Chairs designed in 1958 as outdoor seating still look classic and contemporary in 21st century interiors. The chair’s clean, curvilinear lines enhance any décor and work well in your home office, dining area, and living room. Available in fabric or leather, these Eames chairs are equipped with an innovative suspension that creates a firm, flexible “sitting pocket.” It conforms subtly to your body’s shape and maintains your comfort. With an aluminum frame and base, the chair is strong, yet lightweight and easy to move. Earth-friendly, too: made of 67 percent recycled materials and 90 percent recyclable at the end of its useful life. Starting at $1,749 • hermanmiller.com
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
named these the Soft Pad chairs. The chairs’ simple lines, innovative use of materials, and suspension comfort have kept the Aluminum Group and Soft Pad chairs among the most popular seating choices for offices and homes.
EAMES MOLDED PLYWOOD CHAIR
HERMAN MILLER • 1946
Designers Charles and Ray Eames established their long and legendary relationship with Herman Miller in 1946 with their boldly original molded plywood chairs. The aesthetic integrity, enduring charm, and comfort of the chairs earned them recognition from Time magazine as The Best Design of the 20th Century. Time called the design “something elegant, light and comfortable. Much copied but never bettered.” (A locomotive came in second.) The story behind the Eames molded plywood chairs makes clear just how big a role imagination and serendipity play in design. In the early 1940s, when Charles Eames was working on MGM set designs, he and his wife, Ray, were experimenting with wood-molding techniques that would have profound effects on the design world. Their discoveries led to a commission from the US Navy to develop plywood splints, stretchers, and glider shells, molded under heat and pressure, that were used successfully in World War II. 10
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
When the war was over, Charles and Ray applied the technology they had created to making affordable, high-quality chairs that could be massproduced using dimensionally shaped surfaces instead of cushioned upholstery. When they found that plywood did not withstand the stresses that occurred where the chair seat and back met, they abandoned their original single-shell idea in favor of a chair that had separate molded-plywood panels for the back and seat. The process eliminated the extraneous wood needed to connect the seat with the back, which reduced the weight and visual profile of the chair and established a basis for modern furniture design. Sculpting a seat and back to fit the contours of the human body, they designed a truly comfortable chair that’s suitable for businesses and homes. Starting at $679 • hermanmiller.com
EAMES MOLDED PLASTIC ARMCHAIR
HERMAN MILLER • 1948
Several models of the molded plastic chairs, including the armchair, were designed as entries in a contest sponsored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The “International Competition for Low-cost Furniture Design” was intended to spur the development of well-designed, low-cost furnishings for the post-war housing boom. The introduction to the competition’s catalog put it this way: “To serve the needs of the vast majority of people we must have furniture that is adaptable to small apartments and houses, furniture that is well-designed yet moderate in price, that is comfortable but not bulky, and that can be easily moved, stored, and cared for; in other words, mass produced furniture that is planned and executed to meet the needs of modern living.” Following its introduction at the MoMA exhibit, the armchair was chosen as the first chair to go into production because mass producing it presented 12
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
the most extensive tooling challenge. Development took about three years, and our initial 1950 production run was 2,000. These chairs had shells made from fiberglass in polyester resin. Herman Miller changed the composition to a more environmentally responsible material—100 percent recyclable polypropylene, dyed throughout so the colors are integral and remain vibrant even after many years. The armchair was first offered with the rocker base and two others that are no longer in production. The “Eiffel Tower” base came later, after a lot of experimentation with steel rod construction and stability spacers. Over the years, Herman Miller has worked at finding ways to improve the chair bases, to make them more stable and durable and able to withstand hard use over time. Starting at $349 • hermanmiller.com
EAMES ELLIPTICAL TABLE
HERMAN MILLER • 1951
In 1951, having perfected a manufacturing technique for welding wire-rod bases, Charles and Ray Eames decided to bridge two bases with a dramatically shaped top large enough to hold a variety of items and fit comfortably with a long sofa or several chairs. They considered many shapes. In the end, did they take their inspiration from the surfboards they doubtless saw frequently, given the commanding view of the Pacific Ocean from their California home and studio? They never said, but people often refer to this piece as the “surfboard table.” Whatever you call it, the elliptical table makes it clear that good design never goes out of style. The elliptical table’s 89 inches of surface length provide an expansive arc that lets you spread out or display items--a lot or a few. The tabletop consists of a seven-ply Baltic birch core sandwiched between high-pressure black or white laminate. The edge is beveled on a 20-degree angle to give the top added emphasis. With its long, low profile, the Eames elliptical table sits dramatically in front of a long sofa or in the middle of a chair grouping. It sets 14
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
a striking stage for displaying mid-century fat lava vases, fresh flowers, magazines, or a special book in a living room, waiting room, reception area, or executive lounge. Finished in either black or white laminate, the table makes a strong and beautiful statement wherever it is. Starting at $649 • hermanmiller.com
rne Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and installed it in his own studio, where it inspired one of the most First among Jacobsen’s important architectural commissions was the Bellavista housing project, Copenhagen (1930-1934). Best known and most fully integrated works, are the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen for which Jacobsen designed every detail from sculptural furnishings such as his elegant Swan and Egg chairs (1957-1958) to textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery. During the 1960’s, Jacobsen’s most important work Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, Copenhagen where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des was a unified architectural and interior design scheme for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains appealing and fresh today, combining free-form sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity. commercially successful chair models in design history. The three-legged Ant chair (1951) sold in millions and is considered a classic today. It consists of two simple elements: tubular steel legs and a springy seat and back formed out of a continuous piece of plywood in a range of vivid colors.
IFFACT-THERE IS NOTHINGNICE IT LOOKS I MIND IN
AS LONG AS IT LOOKS NICE
A PASTRY USUALLY TASTES BETTER
Art Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built upon on its craft-based design heritage.
FRTIZ HANSEN • 1958
Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg for the lobby and reception areas in the Royal Hotel, in Copenhagen. The commission to design every element of the hotel building as well as the furniture was Jacobsen’s grand opportunity to put his theories of integrated design and architecture into practice. The Egg is one of the triumphs of Jacobsen’s total design - a sculptural contrast to the building’s almost exclusively vertical and horizontal surfaces. The Egg sprang from a new technique, which Jacobsen was the first to use; a strong foam inner shell underneath the upholstery. Like a sculptor, Jacobsen strove to find the shell’s perfect shape in clay at home in his own garage. Because of the unique shape, the Egg guarantees a bit of privacy in otherwise public spaces and the Egg – with or without footstool – is ideal for lounge and waiting areas as well as the home. The Egg is available in a wide variety of fabric upholstery as well as leather, always combined with a star shaped base in satin polished aluminium. Starting at $5,934 • fritzhansen.com
A ROOM A ROOM
20 he Finnish designer Eero Aarnio is regarded as a pioneer in using plastic materials. Between 1954 and 1957 Eero Aarnio studied at the Institute of is even stronger in the 1968 “Bubble Chair”; its curved seat consists of transparent perspex and is dangling from the ceiling. Another 1968 Eero Aarnio chair is “Plastil”, for which Eero Aarnio received the American Industrial Design Award. Even though Eero Aarnio’s design objects coincide with the era of Pop design, he repudiated the throwaway ethic of the 1960s and 1970s. Far from it: Eero Aarnio explored the possibilities of the new material plastic while remaining true to the Scandinavian tradition of quality and durability. Industrial Arts in Helsinki. In 1962 Eero Aarnio set up his own studio there. He worked as an interior decorator, industrial designer, graphic designer and photographer. For his early furniture designs, Eero Aarnio mainly used natural materials, for instance, for the basket chair “Jattujakkare”. In the 1960s Eero Aarnio turned increasingly to the new plastic materials, especially fiber glass. In 1965, Eero Aarnio designed the legendary “Ball Chair” (or “Globe Chair”), a globular seat made from plastic that was reinforced with glass-fibers. The seat is based on a narrow plinth with a broad bottom; there is a round opening in the front. The inner part of the globe is padded and soft and serves as a seat. Sitting inside, the noises from outside seem to be quite absorbed and far away, whilst sound from the inside is actually amplified. This cocoon feeling 21
ADELTA • 1965
The idea of the chair was very obvious. We had moved to our first home and I had started my free-lance career in 1962. We had a home but no proper big chair, so I decided to make one, but some way a really new one. After some drawing I noticed that the shape of the chair had become so simple that it was merely a ball. I pinned the full scale drawing on the wall and sat in the chair to see how my head would move when sitting inside it. Being the taller one of us, I sat in the chair and my wife drew the course of my head on the wall. This is how I determined the height of the chair. Since I aimed at a ball shape, the other lines were easy to draw, just remembering that the chair would have to fit through a doorway. After this I made the first prototype myself using an inside mould, which has been made using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing. I covered the plywood body mould with wet paper and laminated the surface with fiberglass, rubbed down the outside, removed the mould from inside, had it upholstered and added the leg. In the end I installed the red telephone on the inside wall of the chair. The naming part of the chair was easy, the Ball Chair was born. - Eero Aarnio Starting at $6,860 • eero-aarnio.com
LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE
he United States has a love-hate relationship with Mies van der Rohe. Some say that he stripped architecture of all humanity, creating cold, sterile wood, then stone, and then brick before progressing to concrete and steel. He believed that architects must completely understand their materials before they can design. Mies van der Rohe was not the first architect to practice simplicity in design, but he carried the ideals of rationalism and minimalism to new levels. His glass-walled Farnsworth House near Chicago stirred controversy and legal battles. His bronze and glass Seagram Building in New York City (designed in collaboration with Philip Johnson) is considered America’s first glass skyscraper. And, his philosophy Early in his life, Mies van der Rohe began experimenting with steel frames and glass walls. He was director of the Bauhaus School of Design from 1930 until it disbanded in 1933. He moved to the United States in 1937 and for twenty years (1938-1958) he was Director of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Mies van der Rohe taught his taught students at IIT to build first with 24 25 that “less is more” became a guiding principle for architects in the mid-twentieth century. Skyscrapers around the world are modeled after designs by Mies van der Rohe. and unlivable environments. Others praise his work, saying he created architecture in its most pure form. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began his career in his family stone-carving business in Germany. He never received any formal architectural training, but when
IS ALMOST EASIER
he was a teenager he worked as a draftsman for several architects. Moving to Berlin, he found work vin the offices of architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul and industrial architect Peter Behrens.
IS A VERY DIFFICULT OBJECT
THAT ISIS WHY CHIPPENDALE FAMOUS
KNOLL • 1929
The Barcelona chair was exclusively designed for the German Pavilion, that country’s entry for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by Barcelona, Spain. The design resulted from collaboration between the famous Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his longtime partner and companion, architect and designer Lilly Reich, whose contributions have only recently been acknowledged. An icon of modernism, the chair’s design was inspired by the campaign and folding chairs of ancient times. The Barcelona Chair frame was initially designed to be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using stainless steel, which allowed the frame to be formed by a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother appearance. Bovine leather replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used for the original pieces. The functional design and elements of it that were patented by Mies in Germany, Spain and the United States in the 1930s have since expired. 26
LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE
The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the US and Europe in limited production from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1953, six years after Reich’s death, van der Rohe ceded his rights and his name on the design to Knoll, knowing that his design patents were expired. This collaboration then renewed popularity in the design. Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design. In 1965, Knoll purchased the trademark rights to the Barcelona word from Drexel. In 2004, Knoll received trade dress rights to the design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Despite these trademarks, a large replica market continues. Gordon International New York has continued to manufacture the designs since the 1970s, even after a court battle against Knoll in 2005. In 2008, another court battle erupted between Knoll and Alphaville Design California; the outcome is pending Summary Judgment in Federal District court. Starting at $4,523 • knoll.com
here aren’t many teenagers who could design a house, complete in every architectural detail, but Florence Knoll did – aged just 14. to design that would become the backbone of her space and furniture creations. Florence met furniture manufacturer, Hans Knoll, in 1943 and persuaded him to change the way he created furniture – introducing interior design to his operations. Within three years, Florence had founded the now worldfamous Knoll Planning Unit and become Hans Knoll’s wife and full business partner. When Hans Knoll died in 1955, Florence went on to run the company – an unprecedented move for a woman in the 1950s. Her ability to spot talent meant that designers such as Eero Saarinen created key furniture pieces for the company under her leadership. Knoll is also credited with bringing exceptionally high standards to her furniture designs, and is thought to have boosted furniture industry standards as a whole. Her fastidious attention to detail earned her a reputation for perfectionism: a quality evident in her meticulously finished Florence Knoll Sofa, and other furniture creations. 29 Trained as an architect and designer, Knoll created practical, yet beautiful furniture and interiors that transformed the way living and work spaces are now perceived. Knoll believed in total, holistic design, and considered all aspects of a space when creating interiors: architecture, interior design and furniture design. Her ‘total’ approach led Knoll to create clear, uncluttered corporate spaces in the 1950s that revolutionised the way workplaces were arranged. To these spaces she added functional, minimalist furniture, such as the Florence Knoll Sofa, which combined usability, space-saving functionality, comfort and style. Knoll’s design genius was spotted early in life, when as an attendee of Kingswood School – part of the famous Cranbrook Academy of Art – she became the protégé of school president and Finnish Architect, Eliel Saarinen. Under his tutelage, Florence learned the holistic approach
FLORENCE KNOLL LOUNGE COLLECTION
KNOLL • 1954
As a pioneer of the Knoll Planning Unit, Florence Knoll created what she modestly referred to as the “fill-in pieces that no one else wants to do.” She refers to her own line of lounge seating as the equivalent of “meat and potatoes,” asserting, “I needed the piece of furniture for a job and it wasn’t there, so I designed it.” Like so many of her groundbreaking designs that set the industry’s gold standard, the 1954 Lounge collection has made it into the pantheon of modern classics. Consistent with all of Knoll’s designs, the Lounge collection has a spare, angular profile that reflects the objective perfectionism of modern design in the early 1960s. Versatile collection includes lounge chair, settee, sofa, two-seater bench and three-seater bench. Starting at $2,263 • knoll.com
ero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 and emigrated to the USA with his family when he was 13 years old. His mother Loja was a sculptor of which was for the founder of the Case Study program and publisher of avante-garde magazine Arts & Architecture, John Entenza. While Saarinen’s furniture output was relatively small, several of his designs, such as the Womb and Tulip chairs, have been in constant production since their launch. The Tulip collection (1955) was a unique expression of an architectural mind. Of the reduction of chair and table legs to a single central pedestal, Saarinen said, “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs.” and textile designer, while his father Eliel was a highly regarded architect who became one of the principle lecturers at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Saarinen studied sculpture in Paris then architecture at Yale University, completing his degree in 1934 and joining his father’s architecture practice soon after. He went on to design such architectural icons as the St Louis Gateway Arch in Missouri, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the CBS Building in New York. Saarinen formed a friendship with Charles Eames while Eames was lecturing at Cranbrook. By 1940 they had collaborated on their first joint design, which won two first prizes at the New York Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Organic Design in Home Furnishings’ competition. The pair went on to create two Case Study houses together, one 33
CLEAR UP THE
I WANTED TO
KNOLL • 1956
The Tulip Chair and Stool is Saarinen’s purist approach to architecture and interior design. He sought the essential idea and reduced it to the most effective structural solution within an overall unity of design. To that end, Saarinen designed the 1956 Tulip chair in terms of its setting, rather than a particular shape. “In any design problem, one should seek the solution in terms of the next largest thing,” he said. “If the problem is a chair, then its solution must be found in the way it relates to the room....” in Tulip, a single-legged chair made from fiberglass-reinforced resin, Saarinen realized his ideal of formal unity: “every significant piece of furniture from the past has a holistic structure.” He was an essentialist, breaking a chair or a piece of furniture down to its most basic form and function, and marrying that to an equally pure design aesthetic. The Tulip Chair is an essential art object, a lovely chair, and a piece of furniture design history. The entire chair was of a piece: 34
No detachable parts, no legs, no separation between component parts. It was unified. Winner of the 1969 Museum of Modern art award, the chair is available with or without arms, and with complementary stools and tables. Starting at $1,284 • knoll.com
WOMB LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN
KNOLL • 1948
“When I approach an architectural problem,” Eero Saarinen once said, “I try to think out the real significance of it. What is its essence and how can the total structure capture that essence?” Florence Knoll had put forth the challenge of creating “a chair she could curl up in.” the Finnish-born architect and interior designer responded with the 1948 Womb chair, part of his breakthrough seating collection. With its steel rod base with a polished chrome finish and a frame upholstered in fabric over a fiberglass shell, the chair is designed to facilitate a relaxed sitting posture, providing emotional comfort and a sense of security—hence, the name “Womb,” now one of Knoll’s most recognizable designs as well as one of the most well-known pieces of 20th century design. Designed for comfort, there is no chair more soothing than the Saarinen Womb Chair. In addition to its impeccable comfort, the Saarinen Womb Chair’s design is impossible to ignore. It’s testament to both Saarinen’s skill and challenging of rules, the result of which is this true icon of design. Starting at $3,076 • knoll.com
KNOLL • 1946
The design of Eero Saarinen’s Executive Side Chair (1946) began more than a decade earlier, when he and Charles Eames submitted several designs to the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition at the MoMA. The pair, who’d been friends and collaborators since meeting at Cranbrook Academy of Art, won first prize. These fluid, sculptural shapes influenced the future work of both men; for Saarinen, most notably in his Womb, Tulip and Executive chairs. The Executive was originally made of fiberglass but was later updated in polyurethane to take advantage of the technical advances in plastics. The feel of this classic seat, however, remains unchanged. The molded shell flexes slightly with the sitter and the contoured plywood seat supported by metal or wood legs. Unlike Saarinen’s furniture, which was consistently sculptural in form, these fluid lines didn’t appear in his architecture until the 1950s. When looking 38
at the dome-shaped glass wall of the Kresge Auditorium at MIT, it’s not a big leap to see the same shape in the back of his Executive Chair. This chair is Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified; for its use of low-emitting products. Manufactured by Knoll according to the original and exacting specifications of the designer. Starting at $840 • knoll.com
eorge Nelson studied Architecture at Yale, where he graduated in 1928. He continued his studies and received a bachelor degree in fine Herman Miller’s president. In 1945 De Pree asked him to become Herman Miller’s design director, an appointment that became the start of a long series of successful collaborations with Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, Richard Schultz, Donald Knorr and Isamu Noguchi. He set new standards for the involvement of design in all the activities of the company, and in doing so he pioneered the practice of corporate image management, graphic programs and signage. His catalogue design and exhibition designs for Herman Miller close a long list of involvements designed to make design to the most important driving force in the company. From his start in the mid-forties to the mid-eighties his office worked for and with the best of his times. He was without any doubt the most articulate and one of the most By 1940 he had drawn popular attention with several innovative concepts. In his post-war book: Tomorrow’s House, for instance he introduced the concept of the ”family room”. One of those innovative concepts, the “storagewall” attracted the attention of D.J. De Pree, 41 eloquent voices on design and architecture in the U.S.A. of the 20th century. arts in 1931. A year later while preparing for the Paris Prize competition he won the Rome prize. With Eliot Noyes, Charles Eames and Walter B. Ford he was part of a generation of architects that found too few projects and turned successfully toward product, graphic and interior design. A few years later he returned to the U.S.A. to devote himself to writing. Through his writing in “Pencil Points” he introduced Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti to North America. At “Architectural Forum” he was first associate editor (1935- 1943) and later consultant editor (1944-1949).
NELSON COCONUT CHAIR
HERMAN MILLER • 1955
What kind of person thinks up a chair that looks like a chunk of coconut? How about the person who came up with the Marshmallow sofa. The person who said, “Total design is nothing more or less than a process of relating everything to everything.” Who brought modernism to American furniture. George Nelson. 1950s. Call it what you will—classic, icon, slice of hard-shelled tropical fruit. Half a century later, it’s as wonderful to look at—and sit in—as ever. Introduced in 1955, the coconut chair is one artifact of the burst of creativity issuing from George Nelson’s design studio and changing the look and feel of American furniture. Once our founder, D.J. De Pree, convinced Nelson to become his director of design, a warm personal and professional relationship between the two led to a stunning range of products—including the Marshmallow sofa and the first L-shaped desk, a precursor to today’s workstation. And this chair. 42
Because of its unique, striking design, the Coconut chair is part of the permanent collection in museums worldwide. Because of the comfort Nelson provided in his design, it’s also part of the “permanent collection” in homes and offices. The chair, as we produce it today, is true to Nelson’s original design, materials, and detailing. A modern classic, plain and simple. Starting at $3.999 • hermanmiller.com
NELSON MARSHMALLOW SOFA
HERMAN MILLER • 1956
This is a sofa to brighten a room, to be happy and relax on. You look at its 18 10-inch “marshmallow” cushions and you can’t help but smile. It’s been that way since it began turning heads in 1956, when the Nelson Marshmallow sofa was described in our catalog this way: “Despite its astonishing appearance, this piece is very comfortable.” George Nelson and Irving Harper, a young designer working in Nelson’s design firm, were approached by an inventor who had created an injection plastic disc that he insisted could be produced inexpensively and would be durable. The designers took a look and arranged 18 of them on a steel frame - the origin of the Marshmallow sofa. The inventor’s cushions turned out to be impractical, but Nelson and Harper were intrigued by the design they had created so casually, and Herman Miller decided to manufacture the sofa. By joining separate 44
elements and making them appear to float on air, Nelson and Harper achieved this sofa’s unique appearance and eye-catching appeal, which led the way into the pop art style of the 1960s. And by the way, that young designer - Irving Harper - also designed the famous Herman Miller company logo. Starting at $3.099 • hermanmiller.com
ow does one sculpt space? How do objects give form to the surrounding emptiness? This puzzle, posed both by Europeans like Giacometti and Back in America, Noguchi met choreographer Martha Graham and began a long friendship with Buckminster Fuller. Graham and Fuller provided Noguchi with inspiration, ideas and opportunities to create new forms like the sets he designed for Graham’s dance programmes. In 1939, he designed a free-form dining table for the president of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, A. Congers One of the great sculptors of the 20th century, Noguchi created “lived spaces” for the theater, interiors gardens and playgrounds. He also sought to bring sculptural qualities to the many objects he designed for common use. As a young man, Noguchi studied medicine at Columbia University, but abandoned medicine to pursue painting and sculpture and in 1927, a Guggenheim fellowship took him to Europe. In Paris, he had the great good fortune to be apprenticed in the studio of Constantin Brancusi, whose investigations of form and space recalled the art and architecture Noguchi knew from childhood years spent in Japan. 47 Goodyear. The table’s seductive organic form presaged the coffee table Noguchi would design for Herman Miller in 1944 and the wide range of products that he would design all during the 1940’s, furniture informed by the biomorphic imagery of his sculpture.From his sculpture to his garden design to the Akari lamps designed in the 1950’s, Noguchi’s work sought always to resolve life and aesthetic practice, the art object and the utensil, just as he sought to reveal the essential unity of form and space. Brancusi and the Zen artists of Japan, creates a theme that runs through the work of Isamu Noguchi. It is not one he attempted to solve, but like the Zen master, posed the question in different ways.
ART SHOULD BECOME
WITH ITS SURROUNDINGS
HERMAN MILLER • 1944
A legendary piece of furniture gives rise to legends about its inception, and the Noguchi table is a perfect example. Where did the design begin? We know that Noguchi was an inveterate scrounger. He scavenged his New York neighborhood for all kinds of materials he could use for his sculptures and other projects. George Nelson, our design director at the time, said he was visiting Noguchi’s studio while Noguchi was creating a table for his sister; the prototype he was working on was made from materials he had picked up in alleys and on the street. Isamu Noguchi says in his autobiography that the design began after another designer “borrowed” a Noguchi design for a three-legged table, then offered it for sale. That designer answered Noguchi’s protests by saying, “Anybody can make a three-legged table.” So Noguchi set out to design a different three-legged table. One that not just anybody could make. Noguchi was, first and foremost, a sculptor who believed his task was to shape and bring order to space. He also believed that art should become as one with its surroundings. In a long lifetime of creative work, Noguchi designed gardens and plazas, fountains and murals, furniture and paper lamps, and stage sets for modern dance pioneer Martha Graham. But he said that of all the furniture designs he created, the table that bears his name represented his only true success. Starting at $1,349 • hermanmiller.com Were the tables in these two stories one and the same? Probably. Because George Nelson asked Noguchi to allow him to use the design he saw that day to illustrate an article called “How to Make a Table.” And he also wanted Herman Miller to produce it. From the time it first appeared on the market as a Herman Miller table in 1948, it became perhaps Noguchi’s most recognized work.
ew would protest that Le Corbusier, CharlesEdouard Jeanneret, is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. He articulated Paradoxically, Le Corbusier combined a passion for classical Greek architecture and an attraction to the modern machine. He published his ideas in a book entitled, Vers une Architecture, in which he refers to the house as a “machine for living,” an industrial product that should include functional furniture or “equipment de l’habitation.” In this spirit, Corbusier co-designed a system of furniture with his cousin Le Corbusier was encouraged by a teacher to take up architecture and built his first house at the age of 18 for a member of his school’s teaching staff. In 1908, he went to Paris and began to practice with Auguste Pierret, an architect known for his pioneering use of concrete and reinforced steel. Moving to Berlin, Le Corbusier worked with Peter Behrens, who taught him about industrial processes and machine design. In 1917, he returned to Paris where he met postcubist Amedee Ozenfant and developed Purism, a new concept of painting. In 1920, still in Paris, he adopted the pseudonym, Le Corbusier. Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The tubular steel furniture, like the famous chaise and Grand Confort chair, projected a new rationalist aesthetic that came to epitomize the International Style. During the 1920s and 30s, Le Corbusier concentrated on architecture and during the 1950s he moved towards more expressive forms that revealed the sculptural potential of concrete. Over the decades, his work has included mass housing blocks, public buildings and individual villas, all conceived with what he called the “engineer’s aesthetic.” provocative ideas, created revolutionary designs and demonstrated a strong, if utopian, sense of purpose to meet the needs of a democratic society dominated by the machine.
THE HOME SHOULD BE THE
CASSINA • 1928
The Le Corbusier group referred to their LC2 Collection as “cushion baskets,” which they designed as a modernist response to the traditional club chair. These pieces reverse the standard structures of sofas and chairs by having frames that are externalized. With thick, resilient pillows resting within the steel frames, the idea was to offer all the comfort of a padded surface while applying the elegant minimalism and industrial rationale of the International Style. The resulting aesthetic of the simple tubular structure is remarkably relevant to how we live today, more than 80 years later. Each piece is signed and numbered and, as a product of Cassina’s Masters Collection, is manufactured by Cassina under exclusive worldwide license from the Le Corbusier Foundation. Starting at $3.780 • cassinausa.com
orn 1926 in Gamtofte, Denmark, Verner Panton studied at Odense Technical College before enrolling at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Panton’s collaboration with Vitra began in the early 1960s, when the firm decided to develop what became his best-known design, the Panton Chair, which was introduced in 1967. This was also the first independently developed product by Vitra. Verner Panton died in 1998 in Copenhagen. Vitra’s re-edition of designs by Panton, as well as the retrospective of his work mounted by the Vitra Design Museum in 2000, bear witness to the special relationship between Vitra and Verner Panton. Arts in Copenhagen as an architecture student. He worked from 1950-52 in thearchitectural firm of Arne Jacobsen and founded an independent studio for architecture and design in 1955. His furniture designs for the firm Plus-linje attracted attention with their geometric forms. In the following years Panton created numerous designs for seating furniture and lighting. His passion for bright colours and geometric patterns manifested itself in an extensive
A CONSCIOUS DECISION
CHOOSING COLORS SHOULD NOT BE A
range of textile designs. By fusing the elements of a room—floor, walls, ceiling, furnishings, lighting, textiles, wall panels made of enamel or plastic— into a unified gesamtkunstwerk, Panton’s interior installations have attained legendary status. The most famous examples are the “Visiona” ship installations for the Cologne Furniture Fair (1968 and 1970), the Spiegel publishing headquarters in Hamburg (1969) and the Varna restaurant in Aarhus (1970). 55
IT SHOULD BE
VITRA • 1960
“Most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige conformity, mortally afraid of using color. The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.” Created by Verner Panton in 1960, and with the assistance of Vitra technicians a version was finally ready for series production in 1967. The Panton Chair is the very first ever to be constructed from one continous piece of material. Since its market launch, the Panton Chair has undergone several production phases. Not until today was it possible to produce it in line with Panton’s original idea, namely from consistently dyed, tough plastic with a matte surface and an affordable price. The Panton Chair has won various design awards world-wide and graces the collections of numerous renowned museums. Its expressive shape makes it a true 20th century design icon. The chair offers great seating comfort thanks to the cantilever base, together with its shape and flexible materials. It can be used on its own or in groups and even outdoors. Starting at $260 • vitra.com 56
JIMMY MORRISSEY KENDALL COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN PUBLICATION DESIGN FALL 2010
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