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Icon: James Irvine

James Irvine (Born London 1958) studied furniture design first at Kingston University and then at the Royal College of Art. One of his closest friends at both institutions was his fellow designer Jasper Morrison who remains a friend and occasional collaborator today. After graduating from the RCA in 1984, Irvine worked first at Olivetti’s design studio in Milan and then for Toshiba in Tokyo before returning to Milan in 1988. He continued to work for Olivetti under the guidance of Ettore Sottsass, and in 1992 became a partner in Sottsass’ studio. Since leaving Sottsass Associati in 1998 to concentrate on his own projects, Irvine has developed products for companies such as Arabia, Artemide, Asplund, B&B Italia, Canon, Danese, Magis and Whirlpool as well as working on ambitious public projects such as the design of the Mercedes Benz city fleet of buses for Hannover.

Link: James Irvine Furniture and Industrial Design

Icon: Polaroid SX-70

Polaroid’s first fully automatic, motorized camera was an instant design classic, even starring in a documentary the year it was introduced by company cofounder Edwin Land. The camera is detailed with tan leather and folds into a rectangle the size of a paperback book. Smart.

Polaroid SX-70, by Edwin Land, for Polaroid

Icon: Poul Henningsen

Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) was born in Ordrup, Denmark, he trained as an architect at the Danish College of Technology in Copenhagen. Finding the style of traditional lighting designs to be insufficient for his interiors he began designing his own solutions. He was depressed by “how dismal people’s homes are,” and realised that “electric light gave the possibility of wallowing in light.” Henningsen was evangelistic towards the development of modern lighting.

His two most successful designs the “PH lamp,” designed in 1924 and the “Artichoke” have become icons of modern design.
The “PH” lamp, also callled the “Paris” lamp because of its award winning appearance at the Paris World Exhibition incorporates tiers of shades, allowing the user to direct light in several different directions without exposing the light source. The Artichoke is considered to be a classical masterpiece designed by Poul Henningsen more than 40 years ago. The structure is made of twelve steel arches. On this structure he placed 72 copper “leaves” in twelve circular rows with six blades in each row. Because each row is staggered from the previous, all 72 leaves are able to “cover for each other”.

Poul Henningsen Biography

Icon: Jonas Salk Institute

One of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century, Louis Kahn (1901-1974) realized relatively few buildings, yet the formal restraint and emotional expressiveness of his Jonas Salk Institute is regarded as an inspired progression from the International Style.

Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine, saw the world much as Kahn did, he felt that great thoughts would flow more freely from a monastic setting, perched high on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean, that allowed the thinkers to ponder the great questions of life in solitude.

Jonas Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA by Louis Kahn

Icon: Panton Chair

The Panton Chair is the first cantilevered chair made from a single piece of plastic. Sleek, sexy and a technical first, the Panton was the chair of the era. A glossy red Panton featured in Nova magazine’s 1970 shoot in which a model demonstrated “How to undress in front of your husband”.

Panton Classic Chair, 1968, by Verner Panton, for Vitra

Icon: Inga Sempé

“She designs with force, without making any concessions, and that’s what interests me — even if at times it can be a bit difficult”
- Michel Roset, co-owner of Ligne Roset.

France’s hottest designer Inga Sempé (b. 1968), graduated from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI) in Paris in 1993 at the age of 25. She also won a scholarship for a year’s studies at the French Academy in Rome (Villa Medici). She achieved a complete breakthrough at the Milan Furniture Fair, where her wilful Brosse shelf was shown. The shelf, which has ‘curtains’ made of bristles from sweeping brushes, was displayed in Edra’s showroom and attracted a lot of attention. Since then, Sempé has been a hot name in the design media throughout Europe. Her first exhibition was held last summer at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Inga Sempé has worked with George Sowden (1989), Marc Newson (1994) and Andrée Putman (1997-99).

+ Inga Sempé
More at the New York Times

Icon: Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House

Mies van der Rohe’s famous Tugendhat House is the subject of a bitter custody battle. One of European modern architecture’s early classics, it was designed by Mies for an owner of a textile factory in Brno Czechoslovakia. It was also a project for which Mies designed every detail, from the doorknobs and light fixtures to the Tugendhat and Brno chairs, now classics of 20th-century design produced and sold by Knoll. The villa was seized from its Jewish owners Fritz and Greta Tugendhat by invading Germans in 1939, and was never returned to the family.

Tugendhat House, by Mies van der Rohe, 1929, Brno, Czech Republic.
Official Site: Tugendhat Villa

Buy the Book: Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography


Icon: Platner Lounge chair by Knoll

Designed by Warren Platner in 1966, this distinctive series of tables and seating, transformed steel wire into sculptural furniture.

Platner Collection, by Warren Platner, for Knoll

Icon: Harry Bertoia

Having worked for Charles and Ray Eames and Hans and Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia garnered icon status as a designer when he created the Bertoia Collection for Knoll in 1952. Italian-born, Bertoia utilized his superior skills as a sculptor to bend and shape industrial wire rods into chairs that would become pinnacles of twentieth century furniture design. Now considered modern classics, the collection was so commercially successful that it allowed Bertoia to dedicate himself exclusively to his main artistic passion: sculpting.

Biography: Harry Bertoia

Icon: Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut by Le Corbusier

“Here we will build a monument dedicated to nature and we will make it our lives’ purpose”.

Le Corbusier’s ‘chapel of our lady of the height‘ is a pilgrimage chapel, though on most days more frequented by architectural pilgrims than the intended variety. Perched on a commanding hill above the village of Ronchamp, it is the latest of a long history of chapels on the site. Its predecessor was destroyed in fighting in the Second World War, though much of its stone is used in the walls of Le Corbusier’s building.

The thick, curved walls – especially the buttress-shaped south wall – and the vast shell of the concrete roof give the building a massive, sculptural form. Small, brightly painted and apparently irregular windows punched in these thick walls give a dim but exciting light within the cool building, enhanced by further indirect light coming down the three light towers.

Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, by Le Corbusier

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