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
“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
Hans J. Wegner (1914 – 2007).
Born in 1914: Tønder, Denmark where he completed his early education and was trained as a cabinet maker. In 1936, at the age of 22 he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen, returning later as a tutor.
He worked as an assistant to Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen until 1943, helping on their design for the Århus Town Hall, and adding some of his own furniture. In 1943 he opened his own office and came out with the Chinese chair which, along with his 1949 “Round” chair would provide the basis for many of his later chairs.
Interiors magazine, in America, put the Round chair on the cover in 1950 and called it ‘the world’s most beautiful chair,’ catapulting Wegner into international fame and sparking a profitable export market. It became known simply as,The Chair and began making high profile appearances like the televised 1961 presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy. Of the design Wegner said, “many foreigners have asked me how we made the Danish style. And I’ve answered that it…was rather a continuous process of purification, and for me of simplification, to cut down to the simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and combined top rail and arm rest.”
Inspired by classical portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs, Wegner created series of chairs that helped establish Denmark as an international leader of modern design. Of this seies the Wishbone Chair is widely considered to be his most successful design.
In the early 1960s he came out with several variations on the Bull chair which came with or without horns, and was a fine example of the line Wegner could masterfully walk between elegance and playfulness. “We must take care,” he once said, “that everything doesn’t get so dreadfully serious. We must play – but we must play seriously.”
- Danish Design
Teddy Bear Chair, Circle Chair, CH 07, Wishbone Chair, Bull Chair.
Biography: Hans Wegner
Recommended reading: Danish Chairs
The Glass House is one of the most inspiring examples of the mid-century American interpretations of European modernism or, as Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock dubbed it in their 1932 book, The International Style. Perched on a leafy hill with a picture postcard view across the Rippowam Valley, the house consists of a roof, a floor and four glass walls supported by eight steel piers. The bathroom and a fireplace are enclosed in a brick cylinder, leaving the rest of the 65-by-32 square-foot, or about 6-by-3 square-meter, space entirely exposed to the surrounding greenery.
Hopelessly impractical though a transparent home would be for a family – or for anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be able to afford quite so much land – it was perfect for the fastidious Johnson and his lovers.
“The only house in the world where you can watch the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. And the snow. It’s amazing when you’re surrounded at night with the falling snow. It’s lighted, which makes it look as though you’re rising on a celestial elevator.”
Alice Rawsthorne, the International Herald Tribune
Philip Johnson’s Glass House, 1949, New Canaan, Connecticut.
Official Site: Philip Johnson Glass House
+ Buy the DVD, Philip Johnson: Diary of An Eccentric Architect at Amazon
Light in Design, the B3 system by bulthaup is the measure of all kitchens; by focusing on ergonomics, task management and keeping it utilitarian, the visual aesthetics are not compromised here. The entire kitchen “floats” by using a supporting frame inside the wall that can bear up to one ton in weight per meter. This is ideal for architects and designers, providing them with an unprecedented level of freedom in design and the efficient use of space. The range of accessories and the way in which spices, tools and even cleaning supplies are tucked away compliment the design. You may never dine out again!
Bulthaup B3 Kitchen, by Herbert H. Schultes, for Bulthaup
One of the most versatile and unconventional designers from the second half of the century, Gaetano Pesce has been expanding the notions and structures of Italian New Design throughout his entire career. He studied architecture and industrial design in Venice from 1959-1965, and went on to produce continually vibrant and radical work in painting, sculpture, film, theater, design and architecture.
In 1972 at the MoMA’s exhibition, “Italy: the New Domestic Landscape” Pesce was represented by his “Moloch” lamp. This design was an enormous reproduction of the popular swing-arm “Luxo” lamp. Some of his other important works include the elegant 1986 lamp series, including the “Airport,” “Square” and “Bastone” standing and wall-mounted lamps. His melted plastic “Samson and Delilah” chairs and tables (1980) are representative of his attempt to design “objects that have a propensity or an aptitude for meaning.” His furniture was produced by several of the major international names in design production including B & B Italia, Knoll, Cassina and Vitra.
Official Site: Geatano Pesce
A defining structure of 20th-century modern architecture, this is one of the masterpieces of the world-reknowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Designed to house Illinois Institute of Technology’s departments of architecture, planning, and design, the building’s dramatic, structurally-expressive form resulted from the need to create an open interior space that could be flexibly adapted for changing needs and uses. Instead of interior columns, the roof is hung from exposed steel trusses bridging the depth of the building.
Designed in the early 1950′s and finished construction in 1956. Described by Time Magazine as “the world’s most influential, inspiring and astonishing structures” Crown Hall is a breathtaking, free space; intimidating with its jet black, sharp lines, while entirely inviting and open with its gigantic windows.
I had spent my first 2 Years at the Institute of Design in the basement of this building and what struck me at the time was the perfect proportion of each and every window. The building leaked when it rained, and the students did everything to block out the dazzling light so they could work. The vast open air space and the freestanding wood paneled core set the personality for the interior.
Crown Hall, by Mies van der Rohe
Article: Wrestling with the Legacy: Metropolis
Buy the Book: Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography
An Important and Rare Prototype Prismatic Table for the Alcoa Forecast Program
The Aluminum Corporation of America (Alcoa) program emphasized the artistic and functional possibilities of aluminum. Select commissioned designs were featured in full-page advertisements shot by noted photographers in widely-read weekly magazines. It is for this program that Isamu Noguchi developed the iconic design of the Prismatic table.
Isamu Noguchi, who was the third artist featured in the Forecast program in early 1957, developed an abstract three-dimensional form. Noguchi’s Prismatic tables were conceived in multiple to form a “kaleidoscope” with variant colors with the intention of adaptability. The advertisement photographed by Irving Penn used the table as a casual, yet romantic platform for dinner at home.
Prototype Prismatic Table, Sold at Auction for $290,500, by Isamu Noguchi, at Sotheby’s
The Taccia lamp is a remarkable piece of design from 1962 – and it’s still in production today.
It was designed, by the Castiglioni brothers for Flos in 1962 as a functionable/adjustable table lamp for the modern home. The base is a fluted column of aluminium, topped with a clear glass shade with an aluminium reflector, which can be rotated to direct the light.
Achille Castiglioni said of Taccia in a 1970 interview: “We consider it the Mercedes of lamps, a symbol of success: perhaps because it looks like the shaft of a classical column. We certainly weren’t thinking of prestige when we designed it. We just wanted a surface that would stay cool.”
Taccia, $2,300.00 by Achille Castiglioni, for Flos
Under the direction of Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus sought a union of art and technology, with an emphasis on developing prototypes for industrial production. Marianne Brandt, the sole woman enrolled in the school’s metal workshop, designed this silver teapot while still a student. By interrelating a number of pure geometric forms, including the hemisphere, circle, and cylinder, Brandt’s design explores their formal relationship in space. Like other functional Bauhaus items, the teapot was designed to work well in addition to looking good—it is well balanced and easy to pour.
Tea infuser and strainer ca. 1924, Silver and Ebony; H. 7.3 cm, by Marianne Brandt, Sold at Auction $361,000, Sotheby’s