Alvar and I

Musings about vintage design furniture

Posts Tagged ‘Gerrit Rietveld

Gerrit and Wim

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Love of clean lines in their genes and both adhered to identical principles. Such as furniture should not stand in the way of space in a room. Obviously and understandably the younger of Rietveld’s sons found great inspiration in the creations of his father.

Gerrit Rietveld was indubitably the greatest innovator, but where the son probably outdid his father is in succeeding in designing furniture for true mass-production, something also that his father strove for. Whereas Gerrit’s production was mostly made out of wood, Wim’s designs were of metal. Perhaps Rietveld senior was too ahead of its time’s production techniques: a steel prototype of the Zig-zag Chair did not work out so it ended up – nicely – made out of wood. Wim also contributed to prove that the De Stijl primary colors pallet that his father popularized for furniture will never go out of fashion…

Check out a nice sample of Wim Rietveld works at Modernfindings and also Amsterdam Modern, which inspired this post. And don’t miss this feature on Gerrit Rietveld produced by PHAIDON with an interview of Ida van Zijl the curator of the Rietveld’s Universe exhibition.

Written by Alvar and I

March 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm

A Critique of Tubular Steel

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“In 1925 modern tubular furniture was born. Its birthplace was the Bauhaus, famed German school of architecture and design which Nazis later turned into a domestic science school for girls. It had a bony infancy. Fad-hungry interior decorators pounced on its chromium steel chairs and glass-topped tables. But many a buyer found it short on fun, however long on function. Trouble was – and still is – that metal furniture was cold in surface and line, clammy or hot according to the weather.

Alvar Aalto – Model No. 21

Meanwhile, in Finland, a brilliant young architect named Alvar Aalto and his architect wife, Aino, really got somewhere with modern furniture. Influenced by the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier (real name: Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), but experimenting in plywood instead of steel, they smoothed out geometric kinks, turned out chairs which combined the functional with good sense and charm. The Aaltos were the first to make chairs with pliant one-piece backs and resilient seats. They pioneered also in welding together layers of plywood with synthetic cement, cold-pressing them for six weeks into posture-pleasing shapes.

Alvar Aalto – Model No. 31

Exhibited on the Continent, in London, at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (in 1938), their light, satiny furniture brought the Aaltos international renown, put them in the front rank of modern furniture designers. (Also well acknowledged by then was stocky, bush-browed Alvar Aalto’s high rank among living architects.)

Alvar Aalto – Model No. 42

Last week Alvar and Aino Aalto opened their own furniture store (Artek-Pascoe, Inc.) in Manhattan. The Aaltos’ plywood sandwiches of maple and birch are shaped in Wisconsin, shipped East for assembly. Colors of the finished pieces of furniture – many of them Aalto-patented – ranged from natural finish through cellulosed red and blue to black. On display also went Aalto-designed screens and glassware.

Alvar Aalto – Lounge Chair Model No. 43

The excellence of the Aalto furniture may help to discourage manufacture of some furniture that now passes for modern. The Aalto purpose is to use U. S. mass production to get their designs into ordinary U. S. homes. Though their simple, substantial furniture is well fitted for mass production, the Aalto assembly line has not yet cut prices to the ordinary buyer’s range. In full operation, it will retail an armchair now priced at $29.50 for $19, a $47 chest of drawers for $24, a $15 side table for $9. The Aaltos have already attained space-saving by designing stools that nest into each other, side chairs and even armchairs that can be stacked 20 high to save space.”

[TIME magazine, “Furniture by Assembly Line“, July 15, 1940 issue; with due thanks to Modernism101 for the pointer]

Aalto felt that steel tubing was unsuited to living spaces and he disliked its tinny sound. He took advantage of the elasticity of birch wood, whose spring qualities had hitherto only been only used for skis. Around the same time different solutions were followed by other designers, most notably Heinz and Bodo Rasch’s “Sitzengeiststuhl” (“the spirit of the sitting chair”) and Gerrit Rietveld.

Gerrit Rietveld – Zig-zag chair (1934)

Gerrit Rietveld. Zig-Zag Chair. 1934

The radical innovation of Rietveld’s design was that it did not follow the imaginary lines of a cube, but instead a diagonal.

Charlotte Perriand for the Exhibition “Tradition, Selection, Creation” (1941)

Phillips, de Pury & Company-Experimental armchair

This one was designed while Perriand was in Japan and made out of plywood and bamboo elastic bands. This armchair, an interpretation of Alvar Aalto’s designs (Model No. 31 in particular), was made for her exhibitions at the Takashimaya department stores in Tokyo and Osaka in 1941. The exhibition Tradition, Selection, Creation was opened under sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the French Embassy. It can be considered the immediate outcome of Perriand’s official appointment as advisor to Japanese industrial art production from 1940 to 1941 and her collaboration with Junzo Sakakura. More from the Philips, de Pury & Company catalog description here.

Werner Panton – S Chair No. 275 (1956)

Manufacturing a chair out of a single plywood sheet had been achieved long before Panton’s design by Gerald Summer and Hans Pieck, but it is only with Panton that a cantilever design was made possible. Hugo Häring had proposed in 1949 a prototype made out of a single sheet of metal; the model was intended for production in plywood but never came to be.

[Most of the above information – including this post’s title – is taken from Stebastian Hackenschmidt’s essay “Cantilevered: Chairs as Material Experiments” for the MAK Exhibition Cantilever Chair: Architectural Manifesto and Material Experiment]

Written by Alvar and I

February 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm

From our 50’s couch

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1. George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher just opened at the Oklahoma City Museum of Arts until April 11th.

2. 24 Gerrit Rietveld chairs via Mondo-Blogo

3. A quick guide to collecting mid-century furniture courtesy Brooklyn Based.

Written by Alvar and I

February 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Rietveld’s Universe

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Only a couple of weeks left to visit the exhibition at the Centraal Museum Utrecht (via the always informative Abitare). We will not make it, but there is the catalog to console oneself.

Written by Alvar and I

January 25, 2011 at 2:05 am


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Mies Van Der Rohe – MR10 (1927)


Gerrit Rietveld – Zig Zag chair (1932-34)

Hans Pieck (1946-1947)

Egon Eiermann – SE69 chair (1952)

Dorotheum-Tripod chair SE 69

Gio Ponti – Superleggera (1957)

Werner Panton – S chair (1965)

Shigeru Uchida – Rattan Chair (1974)

Ron Arad – Eight by One (1991)

Martin Van Severen – MVS chaise (2000)

Shigeru Ban – Carbon Fiber chair (2009)

“”I wanted to make a chair that is even lighter than the gio ponti’s superleggera – a chair so light that a child could pick it up with just his little finger.”