Architect Mies van de Rohe Barcelona Chair 1929, leather & stainless steel
Nothing exists in a vacuum. There is no future without the past. But truth is truth. So much for cliche’s. I would never run out of the endless parade of chairs, I could go on and on and on. How did we get all those differences in the mere chair? The past here is about a school in Germany that changed the future of chairs, architecture and design forever.
The early twentieth century was the beginning of a new era envisioning how we live, work and play. A few who influenced our design decisions from the early centuries to now were the innovative, the thinkers, modern men of the day. We lived through, and in this order, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Palladio, Downing, Gaudi, Mackintosh, Gropius, van de Rohe, Graves and Gehry. Are you bored yet? Plug any of those names into your Google and read about their magic. The magic of change. The magic of changing lives. We love magic. But do we love change?
The talented architect, Walter Gropius developed the idea of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany in 1919, a school to teach design differently, to create change. Finally settling in a new building in Dessau in1926, the Bauhaus is one of the world’s most fascinating schools. It changed how we view and philosophize design. Design in art, furnishings, buildings, even fabric for fashion.
The Barcelona chair, above left, was designed during the Bauhaus era.
I suppose a few weeks might be worthwhile to spend on this history of change of the world. But today, I want to give you some more chair fun.
Take a look at this one. Robert Cohen’s bentwood rocker. This is Robert’s design of a chair made from one single piece of wood. Robert, a modern man who is an innovative thinker, is my architect and friend. He designed a fabulous new studio for me with twelve feet of north light windows. Perfect light, especially for an artist who paints. I paint soft realism. www.gailingis.com
Architect Robert Cohen, AIA, Bentwood Rocker 1986
After he saw last week’s blog with the chair from the book “397 Chairs” he sent me an email. He wrote that a chair he designed was in the book. “Really? It is a small world after all.” I exclaimed. I looked in my book and there it was, #258. So, at a business meeting recently this was the conversation between me and Robert.
Gail: “What inspired you to design this chair?”
Robert: “Well, I actually designed it for a chair competition to be exhibited in “The Chair Fair, Furniture of the 20th Century” at the lntemational Design Center in Long Island City.” While investigating the design idea, I noticed chairs were made with several parts that had to be assembled. I thought it would be interesting to design a chair out of one piece of wood. We used hard maple that could be stained in ebony, cherry, or natural. It also could have been made with Dupont Corian.”
Gail: “Congratulations on your design being chosen for the exhibition. Was the chair ever manufactured?”
Robert: “We made a prototype. And we added an optional loose cushion. But I discovered shipping a chair in one piece would be quite costly and inconvenient. Beyond the prototype, it was not offered for sale, but I still have the rocker.”
Gail: “Thanks Robert. I appreciate your skills and innovative spirit.” www.robertcohenarcitect.com.
Come back next week for more surprises………………
What do you think about changes? In your life what changes have you experienced making a difference in the way you live, work or play? Do you love change? Or only magic?
Sit yourself down my dear, in your favorite chair, do not fret, do not sweat, for all you cherish is beneath your seat.
Kitchen Chair 16x16x32"
The crème de la crème is from the 1988 Harry N. Abrams, Inc “397 Chairs” collection. The “Kitchen Chair” by artist Sylvia Netzer. The chair is made of steel tubes, silicon and found objects.
The almighty chair we all take for granted is not always what we expect. For the last two weeks we have discussed the talented, think-out-of-the-box, architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. His architecture reached new heights (oops, an unintended pun) of creativity and function. He designed the interior to reflect the exterior in design, use of materials and function. His seating was accommodating, but uncomfortable with its too deep seats and too stiff backs.
Dining Chair Robie House
All seating must have some pitch to the backs to allow for butt space. But not too much then you will see dangling feet. It is important when getting seating to test your best not only for pretty, but also for fitting your purpose.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect of Horizontality, designed this dining chair for the FLW Robie House in Hyde Park, Chicago. See what I mean by back pitch in the drawings below.
The Boynton Dining Chairs now being manufactured by Copeland were designed for the E. E. Boynton House in Rochester, New York. Mr. Boynton wanted comfortable seating for his guests, so Wright designed a chair back with a compound curve in it that would support a person’s shoulders and give lumbar support for the lower back. Lacking the technology to actually create the compound curved panel, the design was relegated to Wright’s archives for the last 100 years.
Let’s take a last long look at a really comfortable chair. The good old Club Chair.
With James permission here he is in his fav chair…James Kaston, of Remains Lighting, NYC with his cat, Pinky, in his antiques-filled apartment in Stuyvesant Town. Besides his Pinky, the cat who has gone on to pinky heaven, James loves his Napoleon III chair. Can you see enough to get the idea of comfort for your weary soul, pardon, I mean seat?
Have you experienced seating that you can’t wait to get out of and run away as fast as you can? Like, how many of you sit and relax at White Castle, like our stockbroker friend who couldn’t fit?
Until next week…more U-know…wrapped around another story.
Fallingwater Fireplace in Living Room section
If you are reading this, you are probably curious about Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors.
FLW was not a singer songwriter, he was not a shoemaker, he was not slothful, and he was not an interior designer. FLW was a creative genius in architectural methodology and an engineer. He knew he was an architect and engineer, but he also thought he was a designer of interiors and furniture maker. Fallingwater is a prime example of Wright’s
concept of organic architecture, “promoting harmony between man and nature through a design integrated with its site buildings, furnishings and surroundings as part of a unified, interrelated composition.”
His large sitting room at Fallingwater could have had several “conversation groupings.” There is ample bench-like seating that is designed for lots of people sitting side-by-side.FLW lined up the seating all around the perimeter of the room. Unless you are sitting with your sweetheart and holding hands, it is difficult to sit right next to someone and hold a conversation. The best seating is to group conversation areas so folks are sitting across from one another.
When last I visited his magnificent Fallingwater I found it curious there was no seating at the fireplace. The fireplace is a perfect conversation area, but the rock ledge he designed and installed is in the way.
Lined up sitting
The windows are behind the seating. It would be difficult to enjoy the view. A view or fireplace are natural focal points to group seating. Neither the view nor the fireplace was considered.
Fallingwater is the ultimate realization of his vision of man living in harmony with nature. Walls of glass enhance the site-and-house connection. But what about the functional connection for those using the space? He argued with his client about design and money. Instead of an agreed budget of $50,000 max, the cost escalated to $155,000.
Keep posted for a look at more of Wright’s ideas.
My history blog on chairs to be continued… I digress to share this amazing country house with you.*
Most of you know I am an ardent lover of architecture and enjoy writing, viewing and speaking architecture.
I would hope you might enjoy this story and perhaps experience the recently restored country retreat, two hours out from Pittsburgh, in Bear Run, PA. The retreat was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, (FLW), and built for his client Edgar J. Kaufmann between 1936 and 1939. Fallingwater instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark.
The Kaufmann family summer camp home was a small cabin with no heat and no running water. They slept outdoors in screened porches. The cabin stood near a country road. When traffic became noisy after the road was paved, the Kaufmanns decided it was time to build a more modern vacation house.
Frank Lloyd Wright
They turned to FLW to design it for them. At the time, their son was fascinated with Wright’s ideas and was studying with him at Wright’s school, the Taliesin Fellowship.
The Kaufmanns, who had recently become interested in modern art and design, also were intrigued by Wright’s ideas, and asked him to design a new vacation house. They knew that Wright loved nature, as they did, and Wright knew the Kaufmanns wanted something special at Bear Run, something only an innovative architect like himself could design. He knew they loved the waterfall. He decided to make it part of the new house.
When the Kaufmanns first looked at Wright’s drawings, they were surprised! They thought their new house would have a wonderful view of the falls. But instead, with the house right on top of the falls, it was difficult to even see them. Frank Lloyd Wright told the family he wants them to live with the waterfall and not just to look at them now and then.**
Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., the owner of the land, worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, and often had volatile synergy between them as they made their contributions to the creation of the most celebrated house in American History. The design and construction was challenging causing turbulence between the two.
Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, working, living, shopping. What do you think about shelter? Shelter that provides environments for your lifestyle?
To be continued…next week.
In the meantime…Fallingwater remains the residential treasure of our time, and it awaits and welcomes those who wish to see and enjoy its magnificence. It is the most complete work of Frank Lloyd Wright accessible for viewing. Fallingwater is available to the public today because of the excellent maintenance, preservation, and operation by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, (WPC) and it awaits your experience and enjoyment. For information go to www.paconserve.org or call toll-free 1-866-564-6972.
*AIArchitects Online Magazine