LEARN FROM THE GREATS: DESIGNERS WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE

LEARN FROM THE GREATS: DESIGNERS WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE

It is hard to know the best design magazine with so many from which to choose. One of my favorites is Contract.

Harry Bertoia Diamond chair 1952. Steel rod and Naugahyde seat pad. Mfg. Knoll International, USA MOMA

In the current issue, the article by Jan Lakin about the Cranbrook Art Academy and Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, inspired me to write about the special schooling for designers, among whom are Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, among many, who were student collaborators with figurehead designer and architect, Eliel Saarinen. Professionals that helped to define art and design for decades.

The Cranbrook Educational Community, a National Historic Landmark, was founded in the early 20th century by newspaper mogul George Gough Booth.

Eliel Saarinen, fresh from Germany and involvement with the Bauhaus,  had firm ideas of what an art school must be. He was commissioned to design and then teach at the campus of Cranbrook Educational Community in 1925. According to the article, the Academy is renowned for the masterful campus planning and architecture by Eliel, complete with studios, classrooms, workshops, a library, and art museum-that would foster craft, the intense study of the arts, and a spirit of discovery. The school was intended as an American Equivalent to the early 20th century now defunct Bauhaus in Germany. The Bauhaus (scroll to “Grand Stand” blog) was the icon of art schools followed by Cranbrook.

Saarinen became president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932. He  influenced subsequent furniture design. Saarinen also designed the museum at Cranbrook, now being renovated.

Cranbrook Art Museum - Wikipedia

About Cranbrook Art Museum
Cranbrook Art Museum is a contemporary art museum, and an integral part of Cranbrook Academy of Art, a community of Artists-in-Residence and graduate-level students of art, design and architecture. The Art Museum, which was established in 1930 and opened at its current site in 1942, is Eliel Saarinen’s final masterwork at Cranbrook. Today, the Art Museum presents original exhibitions and educational programming on modern and contemporary architecture, art, and design, as well as traveling exhibitions, films, workshops, travel tours, and lectures by renowned artists, designers, artists, and critics throughout the year. In 2011, the Art Museum completed a three-year $22 million construction project that included both the restoration of the Saarinen-design building and a new state-of-the-art Collections Wing addition. For more information, visit www.cranbrook.edu.

To see the article, click Contract and scroll to see on the left of the page, “Cranbrook Art Museum.”

Next week, we’ll take a look at Eero Saarinen. A powerful influence and world renowned designer and architect, the son of Eliel Saarinen.

Do you believe there is such a thing as “good design?” Do you believe in special schooling to become a designer? If you wanted to be a designer, art, graphic, interior, what considerations would you give to your training? If you hire a designer, do you ask about credentials?

 

 

 

 

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS

MOVERS & SHAKERS

I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down whenever they’re around. All those fantastic movers and shakers changing lives, changing chairs, changing toys and changing history. All those folks we have been talking about in my blogs: Queen Victoria with her long reign in the 19th century, the Bauhaus school in the early 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright in the mid 20th century,

Pixar Cars

Steve Jobs of Apple and Pixar in the late 20th and to date only to name a few free thinkers.

Where would we be today without these creative thinkers? I suppose we would not know the difference. We can’t miss what we never knew. But we stand watch as they shake us around and push forward to new exciting innovative technology. What next?

We all subscribe to public domains to chit chat and contact others. You know: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. The public plays all over the internet while big brother is watching. George Orwell in his 1949 book “1984” was right about big brother. Big brother IS watching you. Orwell was a little early in his prediction. But rest assured the major minds were already working on the technology we have today.

Technology Overload

Are we on technology overload and who is big brother? Do you believe you are being watched? How do you feel about this eye on you everyday, all day, all night? Are you participating in the public domains where everyone knows who you are? What changes have you made in your life with all the technology? Is life easier?

GRAND STAND

GRAND STAND

Bauhaus Art by the group at the school

The Grand Stand of design happened in the early 20th century. The guilty? The Bauhaus. So, what came before? Gradual economic and social changes in the 18th and 19th century caused by the Industrial Revolution. Because of those events, the  Bauhaus, a school of different ways of thinking, changed how we viewed and developed art and technology. We are talking about, let’s say for an art example, a painting, and for technology, the Bauhaus balconies or a chair or a teapot and more stuff than you can imagine.

László Moholy-Nagy
‘Bauhaus Balconies’
1926
Silver gelatin photograph

The idea for the school was the gestalt of a learning atmosphere for all, the teacher, the student, and the creator. They all were involved with the process. Triggered by 19th century technological-industrial development, there was no gap between artistic conception and realization. It became easier to design and develop because everyone worked together.

Bauhaus "Wassily" Chair by Marcel Breuer

For example, another member of the staff at the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer, looked at the tubular form of the bicycle handlebars and made a chair using the concept. No, it wasn’t a chair with pedals. It was a chair with tubular steel supports.

Wassily Chair
Designed by Marcel Breuer, produced by Knoll®
In spirit and stature, Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair (1925) from Knoll has few equals. Believed to be the first bent tubular steel chair design, the Wassily Chair distills the traditional club chair to a series of strong, spare lines, executed with dynamic material counterpoint. The gleaming chrome-finished tubular steel frame, inspired by the graceful, curving handlebars of the Adler bicycle, is seamless in its assemblage. Thick cowhide leather slings create the design’s seating surfaces, which maintain their crisp tautness for decades. Named for Wassily Kandinsky, the father of abstract painting and a colleague of Breuer’s at the Bauhaus, the Wassily Chair is a symbol of the industrial heroism and engineering invention of the early 20th century. Made in Italy, each piece is stamped with the KnollStudio logo and the designer’s signature. The Wassily Chair is a registered trademark of Knoll, Inc., manufactured by Knoll according to the original and exacting specifications of the designer. The outcome of the grand stand school of design, the Bauhaus.
MAGIC OF CHANGE

MAGIC OF CHANGE

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?

Bauhaus Signage

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?

 

CHAIRS: HISTORY AND THE BAUHAUS

CHAIRS: HISTORY AND THE BAUHAUS

 


Brno Flat Bar Chair

The Brno Flat Bar Chair (1930) from KnollStudio® is a masterpiece of structure, paying tribute to early modernism’s gravity-defying skyscrapers. Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to have a cantilevered base, the Brno offers the comfort of an arm chair without the old-line stuffiness or bulk of upholstery. Leather covers the cushions for long-enduring appearance retention and ease of maintenance-two especially important features for dining rooms, offices, conference rooms and waiting areas.

What is this all about? How famous is this Brno Chair, and who likes it? Well, it is historically as important as King Tut’s Throne and Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair, but only a select few know about this flat bar chair. You do not have to like modern furniture, nor do you have to own one of these beauties, but let me tell you…this chair is handsome, strong, and has amazing tactile sensations with its gorgeous supple leather and smooth steel frame. And as an owner it sets you apart from the rest of the world. It is impressive to own even just one.

Barcelona Chair

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair and Stool (1929), originally created to furnish his German Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Barcelona, have come to epitomize modern design.

Barcelona Pavillion, Spain

Mies van der Rohe designed the chair to serve as seating for the king and queen of Spain, while the stool

Barcelona Stool

was intended to accommodate their attendants. The Barcelona chair and stool is one of the most stylish and elegant pieces of modern furniture of the 20th Century and probably the most recognized piece of modern furniture around. Still produced to his original specifications, this chair and stool are of quality fit for royalty.

Bench classical seating

Funny feet seating are still popular. These designs are considered classical classics. The funny feet seating is in complete contrast to the modern classics.

Classic Dining Chair features animal feet

If you think about it, you’ll realize why a new philosophy was needed. We finally made it out of Victoriana with its clutter. By the time Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius established the Bauhaus in 1929, we had been exploring new ways of design.

Bauhaus

Other styles evolved like Arts and Crafts Movement (today called Mission), Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The art, architecture and designs of the Bauhaus were the exact opposite of anything that had come before. More common today are the country and classical reproduction designs of the 18th century.

Do you have room for both modernist and classical designs?

Have you ever thought you could add one of the modernist beauties into your classical interior for the pièce de résistance, or a fabulous authentic antique in your modern interior?

Please comment and feel free to ask questions. Come back next week for more surprises.

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