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Furniture Designer Icons Of The 20th Century
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This brought about the philosophy of "form follows function" which guided design. The idea that the shape of an object should be based primarily on its intended function guided the minimalist designers that followed. Here is a brief overview of those considered the giants in furniture design, although most of these legends had success across industries in architecture, art, sculpture, film, and photography.
Mies Van Der Rohe
Van Der Rohe was a Bauhaus alumnus who, along with Lilly Reich (also of the Bauhaus school) designed the iconic modernist Barcelona Chair. Designed for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition, the chair's name came from the exposition's host city. The chair consists of a minimalist chrome X-frame support and breathtakingly simple welted and buttoned cowhide seat and back. Mies went on to design the Brno chair which uses a cantilever design support that makes the chair look like it is floating.
Le Courbusier's furniture design is most associated with use of tubular steel frames, such as the sling chair and his iconic chaise lounge. His philosophy of furniture design reflected his belief that a house was a 'machine for living' and that furniture must be equally functional. This led him to reject the fully upholstered designs for an open, yet comfortable look that exposed the frame system as part of the aesthetic. This ushered in the design wave known as the International Style.
Equally known for his architecture, Saarinen designed the Womb Chair based on a client's request for a chair one could curl up in. This design literally envelops the body as the name suggests. This basic form was evident in later works such as the Tulip Chair. This chair as well as the Pedestal Table saw innovation in the support system. As Saarinen stated, his goal was to eliminate the 'slum of legs' he saw in homes.
Breuer's 1925 Wassilly Chair was designed for the artist Wassilly Kandinsky when together at the Bauhaus school of design in Germany. The chair is purported to be the first to use a bent tube steel support system. The tubular system became the basis for a line of furniture that was affordable, yet infinitely strong and durable. Breuer later designed a cantilevered chair that further innovated on the earlier designs of Van Der Rohe and Stam. The innovation was in the use of non-reinforced tubing that resulted in a more comfortable chair due to its flexibility.
Charles & Ray Eames
This husband and wife design team took the ideas of form and function to new levels with their bent and molded forms. They were keen on designing for simple furnishings for ordinary people. Their LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) design in 1946 was lauded as the Best Design of the 20th Century by Time Magazine. The chair was the result of plywood molding experiments the couple performed in their living room. This was followed in 1948 by the Molded Plastic Chair. This design, known to many as the Eiffel Chair, is credited as being the first chair of its kind to be industrially manufactured. Of course the Eameses are perhaps best known for the 1956 introduction of the Eames Lounge Chair which used their molded plywood technique to create a luxuriously beautiful and comfortable club chair.
The influence of these greats is still felt in the furniture design of today. The furniture itself is also still in production throughout the world.
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