Furniture by Architects
Featuring Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, Christian Wassmann, Frank Gehry, Gerrit Rietveld, Lina Bo Bardi, Marcel Breuer, Oscar Niemeyer, Serban Ionescu, Sergio Rodrigues and Superstudio.
Many architects have discussed the differences and similarities in designing architecture and furniture. “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier,” said Mies van der Rohe. “From the spoon to the town,” declared Ernesto Rogers regarding the creative possibilities of the modern architect. The appeal is almost irresistible: whether the goal is to complete a project from start to finish, or to explore different materials and scales, most architects get their feet wet in the furniture pond at some point in their careers. And while for some it is a brief exercise, others make it a full occupation and are more known for their seats than their houses.
The idea of the architect as we understand it today took shape in the first decades of the twentieth century, as the modern movement proposed new ways of designing that would lead to new ways of living. For that first generation, the idea of a gesamtkunstwerk – the total work of art – was paramount to the profession. By the midcentury, delving into furniture design had evolved into a way of creating in scale and interacting with industry. Later, furniture presented itself as a strategy to reject the dogmas of architecture, as postmodernism began to rise. Today, with much more fluid and open boundaries between design and art, furniture designed by architects seems to have lost its past grandeur, but amazing works continue to be done. From Alvar Aalto to Serban Ionescu, we present a selection of furniture by architects from the 1930s to now that illustrates this fascinating history.