Architects began exploring with furniture design with the birth of the Modern Movement at the last decades of the 19th century. A new virtual exhibition 'Furniture by Architects' at R & Company comes to identify the architectural character in furniture and lighting designed by trained architects. Curated by James Zemaitis, it explores and demonstrates Mies's famous line that “a chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.”
We learn that the motives behind creating the furniture, by such early modern and mid-century architects as Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Frank Gehry, Gerrit Rietveld, and Lina Bo Bardi were varied. Some created pieces to complete projects from start to finish; others explored with new materials and processes; and for many, it was a brief exercise. We also learn that for the members of the Modern Movement, creating furniture was a key to achieving a professional success. By the midcentury, delving into furniture design had evolved into a way of creating in scale and interacting with industry, while in the 60s and 70s, furniture presented itself as a strategy to reject dogmas of architecture.
What a great show for both collectors and design lovers for days at home in COVID. I wish this virtual exhibition included more contemporary furniture by architects, an area rarely explored. All images courtesy R & Company. Above: Alvar Aalto, Paimio Chair, 1931-2, manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Ab, Turku, Finland. Bent plywood, bent laminated birch, and solid birch.