Sunday, 29 January 2012

Mid to Late Century Modernism in Furniture

EST. 1945 - 1970
Modernism in the mid- to late- 20th century saw significant changes. As WWII came to an end, the furniture industry realized technological advancements in manufacturing techniques. Other changes included an increase in availability of new materials such as aluminum and plastics, as well, designers discovered new ways to bond wood together.
Much of the furniture created during the Modernist period is still recognized as a symbol of elegance today. “Although design has moved onward to a degree in recent decades, the modernist pioneers retain their stature as the inventors of a design vocabulary for the twentieth century.” (Pile, 2009)

1907 – 1971
Danish architect Arne Jacobsen established himself as a furniture designer after WWII. When Jacobsen was 23, he received a medal – his first international award – for his modern chair design at the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.
Jacobsen’s furniture designs have become iconic symbols of the late modern age, specifically the Ant chair and the Egg chair (pictured centre and bottom). However, Jacobsen’s Series 7 Chair (pictured top), because of high retail sales, is considered to be one of the most popular chairs ever designed.

1905 – 1973
Italian furniture designer Carlo Mollino, is known for his ‘streamlined surreal’ designs in which his furniture took nuances of natural shapes, such as tree branches, horns, and the curve of the human body. Mollino’s techniques changed as technologies in wood bending evolved. Many of his designs are said to have developed from an appreciation of the Art Nouveau movement and especially from architect Antoni Gaudi.

1891 – 1979
Gio Ponti is one of Modernisms most prolific designers. With a career that spanned 60 years, he contributed to the design field in many different ways, including architecture, furniture design, journalism, painting, and teaching. Ponti believed that furniture and architecture should be synonymous with one another.

1914 – 2007
Prolific mid-century designer Hans Wegner is, at least in part, responsible for the popularity of Danish designed furniture. Wegner, who believed furniture should be beautiful from every angle, also held craftsmanship in high regard as is evident is his contemporary minimal-yet-functional furniture.

1928 –
Luigi Colani originally studied aerodynamics and is well known for his futuristic automobile designs in the 1950’s. Colani began his career in furniture design in the 1960’s where he concentrated on plastics to create eccentric forms. He went on to contribute to many different design-fields, such as office furniture, pianos, textiles and wallpapers, and cameras.

1912 – 1971
Japanese designer Isamu Kenmochi’s most famous design is his rattan lounge chair (pictured). The design of the chair maintained the look of the traditional Japanese craft while constructing a contemporary, sculptural feel. Kenmochi’s rattan lounge chair is a permanent exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Kenmochi also designed a chair for a famous sumo wrestler, his Kashiwado chair (pictured) is also part of a permanent exhibit in the Philadelphia Art Museum. The design was made of Japanese cedar – or ‘sugi’ – and is currently in limited production.

1926 – 1998
Verner Panton is one of Denmark’s most influential late 20th century Modern furniture designers. He is famous for his fluid designs that contributed to the POP culture movement. His chairs were created using plastics in bright colours, and over time became increasingly unusual because they had no legs and no obvious back.

Industrial designers, the Castiglioni brothers – Achille Castiglioni 1918-2002, Livio Castiglioni 1911-1979, and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni 1913-1968 – created a style that combines a respect for form in everyday objects with a sensible approach to function.
In 1962, during the height of their career, they designed the Arco Floor Lamp (pictured) which was modeled after a typical street light. The lamp’s base was made of marble, heavy enough to project the light source up and out eight feet.

Furniture Modern. (nd). Mid-century modernism furniture. Retrieved from
Pile, J. (2009). The emergence of modernism. A History of Interior Design, 3rd. Ed. 329-353)

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