Alvar and I

Musings about vintage design furniture

Low Cost Furniture Competition: 1949

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With the Internet, serendipidity takes a whole new meaning. Stumbled recently upon MoMA’s press releases of the iconic Low Cost Furniture Competition: here is the press release announcing the winners, and  here is the exhibition press release. The competition advert can be seen here. See also here for a candid discussion of production challenges .

The 1949 International Low Cost Furniture competition revealed to the public Don Knorr, Robin Day, and Ernest Race. The competition was featured in Life magazine  and Der Spiegel.

With about 3,000 entries, the list of designers who submitted reads like a Who’s Who of 1950s design and architecture: Marcel Breuer, Ilmari Tapiovaara, Hans Wegner, Marco Zanuso, Franco Albini, Jorn Utzon and Willy Guhl among them. Here is an overview of the competition catalog courtesy of Modernism 101.

Don Knorr chair – upholstered

The brainchild of Edgar Kaufmann Jr., the competition used the successful formula of the MoMA 1941 “Organic Designs and Home Furnishing” of collaboration between MoMA and retailers (Kaufmann was the son of the owners of Kaufmann’s department store in Pittsburgh). You could well say that Edgar Jr. was a man of taste and vision having studied with Frank Lloyd Wright and being of the Kaufman family that commissioned the Fallingwater house in 1936.

he has the right to look pretty smug, no?

Some of the furniture presented at the competition…

Robin Day and Clive Latimer storage unit

Alexey Brodovitch chair (3rd prize)

Charles Eames- La Chaise: it was not so low cost, so it did not win (2nd prize)

Full Scale Model of Chaise Longue (La Chaise) by Charles and Ray Eames, 1948. ©2008 The Museum of Modern Art

Written by Alvar and I

June 5, 2011 at 7:59 pm

From our 50’s couch

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1. Charlotte Perriand: De la photographie au design, currently in Paris. How organic forms inspired the furniture of Perriand. Check the Wallpaper* gallery. Fascinating.

the model

its interpretation

2. Another Wallpaper* gallery treat, the Days exhibition at Pallant House Gallery.

3. Featured in this month edition of Dwell and elsewhere on the web sphere, the 23.2 house of Omer Arbel. Love the book shelf in the open living room.

Written by Alvar and I

April 20, 2011 at 2:11 am

Fay meets Florence

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We watched Network last night. 1976 was a terrific year for US movies. Lumet knew how to film New York, and the first shots panning the MGM building midtown (one of the numerous buildings designed by Emery Roth & Sons)  show that he knew his modern architecture repertoire.

But the true reason for this post is that we could not help spotting the Knoll Partners desk in the corner office of the smart, unscrupulous and ambitious TV exec Diana Christensen. Cool and sleek: a good match. It does not harm the eye that Faye Dunaway is sitting on it.

Produced in mahogany, oak,  rosewood, teak and ebonized wood

The drawers are nicely concealed

Written by Alvar and I

April 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Designers

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Chandigarh: The Auctioneer Replies

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Chandigarh’s treasures keep selling well. Several went several times above their estimate at the last Wright auction on 31 March (hammer price of $88,900 for the Pierre Jeanneret sofa below). Answering to the attempts by the government of India to have the items removed from the auction, and the controversy surrounding their sale, Wright has put a statement on their website.

The note is quite informative. According to Wright, and this is not really a surprise, the government of India just a few years back left the furniture decaying and sold it at local auctions. French dealers (we think Eric Touchaleaume is one of them) bought some of the furniture back and restored it. Wright also claim the moral high ground – a more dubious argument in our view – when arguing India did not take steps to recognize the furniture as art treasures, while collectors and auction houses actually support their preservation. The note does not say if there have been attempts by India to buy the furniture back at a fair price that would cover the costs incurred by those who salvaged the furniture.

The good faith of dealers does not seem in doubt, and the sellers may have the law on their side. You could argue the same of the Elgin marbles too, but is not the rightful place of the Jeanneret furniture in India rather than in the home of a billionaire?

Written by Alvar and I

April 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Robin and Lucienne Day – Design and the Modern Interior

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The most celebrated British designer couple left us last year. A fitting tribute to their creative genius, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, the Days’ home town will feature an exhibition of their design opening 26 March. And good news, Lesley’s Jackson’s reference on the Days, Robin & Lucienne Day: Pioneers of Contemporary Design is being reedited on the occasion. You can buy it here.

Robin Day, London, 1997|Photograph by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Robin Day, 41 Chair for Hille & Co., 1962

Robin Day, 41 Chair, 1962, Manufactured by S. Hille & Co. Ltd.|Courtesy of Target Gallery, London

Lucienne Day – Apex for Heal Fabrics, 1967

Lucienne Day, Apex, 1967, Manufactured by Heal Fabrics, Screen-printed cotton|Courtesy of the collection of Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III

Written by Alvar and I

March 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Designers, Exhibition

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Le Corbusier’s Indian masterpiece Chandigarh is stripped for parts

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Chandigarh’s furniture again. A recent article in The Guardian reports the campaign led by Manmohan Nath Sharma, to preserve the capital of Punjab and Haryana and prevent the “removal” of artifacts, including furniture from the numerous public buildings. Sharma was the first assistant of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and later took over as chief architect of the city. A petition to support this effort can be signed here.

It’s true that emulating the success of dealers with salvaged Prouvé furniture from Africa and elsewhere, many of Chandigarh’s furniture, most of it designed by Jeanneret, have surfaced on the market. The forthcoming Philips de Pury & Company sale being the latest example. Atelier also reminds us of this Wallpaper* piece from about 2 years ago.

Some will view this as the market enabling the salvage of beautiful pieces of furniture that would otherwise be lost forever, others will see it as plundering of universal patrimony by unscrupulous merchants. In the absence of facts, hard to tell which is right. The case of Chandigarh is however specific in that there is the need to preserve the whole integrity of the place, its architecture and artifacts (including furniture).

Since there is an effort to draw the attention of Indian and international authorities to the preservation of Chandigarh, we believe this should be supported. Philips de Pury and others can make their profits on what is already and legitimately on the market.

Written by Alvar and I

March 22, 2011 at 3:00 am

From our 50’s couch

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1. Shopping for vintage on Ebay or Craigslist is a bad idea. (Not that we never took chances – but this should have cost us). A reminder, courtesy of The NYT.

2. Polish modern via Wallpaper*.

3. Phillips de Pury catalogs via Issuu; check the 7th April auction.

Written by Alvar and I

March 13, 2011 at 3:18 am