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Eero Aarnio

The height of popularity of plastics in Finnish furniture design lasted from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s and Eero Aarnio (1932-) was at the forefront of the trend. His premier examples were the playful shape of his fiberglass "Pallo" (Globe) chair and his "Pastille" chair, an indoor/outdoor, Pop take on the rocking chair, which won an American Industrial Design award in 1968.

Aarnio was born in Helsinki and studied at the Institute of Industrial Arts there, graduating in 1957. In the late1950s he worked with the Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara, and in 1960 he started working for the Asko Company. He established his own design office in 1962 as an industrial and interior designer.

His Globe chair was introduced to the public at the Cologne Furniture Fair in 1966 and won the immediate acclaim of the design press despite the fact that it was expensive and produced on a limited scale. Until that point, much of the draw of Scandinavian design had been its beauty and elegance in spite of, and perhaps because of, its mass production. The modern image that the Globe chair was creating, however, led Asko to establish a limited partnership with Aarnio in which he could design experimental furniture using new materials and modes of production and, in doing so, benefit and expand their corporate image. This new popularity and the professional relationship that grew out of it allowed Aarnio to push the boundaries of design in ways that he never would have been able to in his earlier years as an Asko employee.

Although the Globe chair was introduced as a limited item, Aarnio started out working with plastics to the same end that earlier Finnish designers, like Tapiovaara, worked with wood. He wanted to create ergonomic designs that were modern and mass-produced at a low cost, in this case using state of the art materials. His organic forms also represent an elegant Scandinavian approach to the use of synthetic materials, and an adherence to the belief that his designs should be beautiful and extraordinarily durable. This "built to last" philosophy went somewhat against the grain of the prevailing Pop 1960's aesthetic, which was more disposable.

Aarnio is quoted as saying that, "design means constant renewal, realignment and growth." In following with this sentiment, Aarnio began using polyurethane foam in the 1970s to create more animated works like the "Pony" chair (1970).

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