Furniture By Architects
Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1931
Paimio Chair, 1931-1932. Manufactured by Oy Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Ab, Turku, Finland. Bent plywood, bent laminated birch, and solid birch....
A textbook case of gesamtkunstwerk, Aalto’s chair designs for the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanitorium have achieved renown independent from their original association. This superb early example dates to the years immediately following the completion of Paimio, when the factory began producing large quantities of Aalto’s designs for export. However, the extraordinary (and pricey) curly birch veneer, the lack of an export tag (such as Finmar) and the provenance suggest that this chair never left Finland until it was sold to a New York collector fifteen years ago. Also notable is the rough-cut nature of the openwork slits on the back. The original chairs in Paimio lack these cuts, and Christopher Wilk has suggested that they were introduced during early mass production for either aesthetic reasons or to help bend the tight plywood curve over the top of the back. Later examples produced by Artek incorporate the cuts into the molding process, and therefore they are much more precise in their detailing.
Arne Jacobsen, Denmark, 1935
Dining chair designed by Arne Jacobsen for the restaurant at the Bellevue Theatre, Klampenborg, Denmark, 1935....
One of Jacobsen's earliest chair designs, produced by Fritz Hansen for the restaurant in the Bellevue complex, and later in 1939 for a nearby town hall. Today very few are known to exist. The chair’s synthesis of historical forms and the minimalist execution is masterful. The typical 1920s-30s chair seen in restaurants, ballrooms, and ocean liners, was upholstered, padded, stodgy. Here, the Chinese back is married to a seat whose single piece of leather is reminiscent of a sella curulis. Two rails are placed in the front to support the weight of sitting on the leather, but are low enough not to interfere with the tush.
Gerrit Rietveld, Holland, 1935
Produced by Gerard van de Groenekan, Utrecht....
The first chair in our exhibition "Furniture by Architects" to be designed for mass production instead of a specific building, the Crate series of furniture was Rietveld’s attempt during the Great Depression of the 1930s to create low-cost designs from the cheapest of materials. The furniture was distributed by Metz & Co., the Dutch department store. Plans for the Crate chair have been widely circulated over the years in “Do It Yourself” manuals, and today original examples such as this one are in the collections of numerous museums, including Brooklyn, SFMOMA, Vitra and the V&A.
Marcel Breuer, England, 1935
Long Chair. Manufactured by Isokon Furniture Company, London, 1935–1939. Plywood....
After Breuer fled Nazi Germany, he settled in London, where he designed a seminal series of plywood furniture for Isokon, the firm founded by Jack Pritchard. Influenced heavily by Aalto, the Long Chair featured a bent ply seat manufactured by the firm Venesta in Estonia, which was shipped to London and united with its wooden arms assembled from recycled packing crates and other scraps. The present one, like many, was originally upholstered by Isokon, but probably lost its tacked cushion when the collecting market for the chair started to develop in the 1980s. It was the most successful design for Isokon, and today more than a dozen examples are in museums.
Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, USA, 1940s.
Small cabinet for the Organic Design Competition. Manufactured by the Red Lion Furniture Co. Honduran mahogany; unmarked....
This diminutive cabinet was designed by two young architects who had met at Cranbrook for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition at MoMA in 1941, where it was part of a system of case furniture which received First Prize in the “Other Furniture for a Living Room” category. Red Lion’s collaboration with Eames and Saarinen was briefly retailed at department stores in major cities following the exhibition. Another example of this rare model is in the permanent collection of MoMA.
Sergio Rodrigues, Brazil, 1962
"Vronka" lounge chair with jacaranda frame and upholstered leather seat and headrest. Designed by Sérgio Rodrigues, Brazil, 1962....
Shortly after starting the architecture program at the University of Brazil (now the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), Sergio Rodrigues found a passion for interior design. After graduating, he began designing his own furniture, and by the 1960s, had a thriving business. The Vronka armchair was designed in 1962 for his Meia Pataca line, which Rodrigues created aiming for a broader client base. While admirable, his architecture remains overshadowed by his prolific furniture design career.
Superstudio, Italy, 1972
Prototype "Lampada Alabastro" table lamp in alabaster and metal. Designed by Superstudio and produced in San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy, 1972....
Architecture and design collective Superstudio was founded in Florence in 1966, and soon became one of the most influential exponents of the Radical Movement: their "anti-architecture" at once rejected design and made it all-encompassing. Alessandro Poli joined the group in 1970 and was responsible for the design of this table lamp. In this piece, the architect combined the ancient material alabaster with the minimal geometry that the group is known for in all scales of their work.
Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil, 1972
Extremely Rare "Alta" lounge chair in leather and stainless steel. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil. Produced in Paris, 1971. In collaboration with Anna Maria Niemeyer. From the permanent collection of R & Company....
Oscar Niemeyer is undoubtedly one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century and, while not often, he too designed furniture. The "Alta" lounge chair from 1971 was the first one he created, in collaboration with his daughter, Anna Maria Niemeyer, for the Communist Party Headquarters in Paris. This extremely rare early example was briefly produced for the retail market by Mobilier International and retailed in Europe for a few years.
Lina Bo Bardi, Brazil, 1987
Prototype of the "Frei Egídio" chair in Tauari wood. Designed by Lina Bo Bardi, Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki, Brazil, 1987....
Lina Bo Bardi used to say that she did not design furniture for its own sake, but made exceptions when the piece would help to complete a project. The Frei Egidio chair was designed with Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki for a theater in Bahia, inspired by an Italian Renaissance folding chair they used when working at Bo Bardi's Glass House. In the theater setting, this shape allowed viewers to place their chairs anywhere they wanted or as the play demanded.
Frank Gehry, USA, 1987
"Grandpa Beaver" armchair in corrugated cardboard from the Chiat-Day Building, Santa Monica. Produced by New City Editions, Venice, ca. 1987-91....
Sometimes architects decorate their buildings with chairs they have previously designed, independent of any architectural commission. Such is the case with the present “Grandpa Beaver” chair, which was originally designed by Gehry in 1986 for Vitra as part of his second line of cardboard furniture, known as the “Experimental Edges.” Later, Gehry integrated furniture from the series into the 1990s interior of the Chiat/Day Building in Santa Monica, California (also known as the Binoculars Building because of the Oldenberg/van Bruggen façade sculpture), and the present example was originally placed in the executive offices.
Christian Wassmann, USA, 2018
In poured polyurethane resin....
Swiss-born architect Christian Wassmann’s homage to Thomas Edison proves that modernist design is alive and well in the 21st Century. Simultaneously a light as well as a reflector and magnifier, the “Dodecahedron” is built from twelve poured lakes of acrylic, each forming a pentagram lens which magnifies the central bulb. Wassmann has been producing different sized and colored versions for R & Company since 2011.