Friday, April 22, 2011

Ettore Sottsass & Bruno Munari

Ettore Sottsass was an Italian architect and designer of the 20th century. Born in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1917, he grew up in Milan as his dad was working there as an architect. He later moved to Turin to study at the “Politecnico de Torino” and followed his father’s path in graduating in architecture in 1939.
Moreover, he travelled a lot during his life and it is very probable that his experiences affected him and changed his way of seeing the world. For instance, he spent most of WWII in a concentration camp in Yugoslavia when serving for the Italian military, but he also travelled to India and to the United States.
He began working as a design consultant for Olivetti and designed different objects such as equipments, furniture and typewriters. That is where he developed his ability to bring office equipment into the realm of popular culture thanks to its design and to a specific use of color. His major achievement remains probably the “Valentine typewriter” (1969).
Then, his worked diversified and he for instance designed ceramic sculptures, always presenting them within a context of consumerism. Nevertheless, Sottsass can aslo be remebered for his collaboration with other young architects and designers in the “Memphis Group” of which he was one of the founders. With them, he really experienced other forms of arts that were different from his usual modernist works, and his works are now seen as characteristics of Post-Modernism in design and in the arts

Bruno Munari on the other hand, was born a decade before Sottsass (in 1907) when the “Art Nouveau” was still existing. However, one can say that he was experienced a very similar cultural and artistic influence as he also grew up in Milan.
Nevertheless, he joined the second-generation Milanist Futurist movement at the end of the 1920s in which he worked on painting, design kinetic experimentation but also on photography and on advertising. To some extent, one can draw a link between Munari and Sottsass as they both worked on subjects related to consumerism.
It is nonetheless necessary to note that his work did not restrain to visual arts such as sculpture, painting and graphic, as he also created non visual works such as poetry.
At last, he is remembered for founding the Italian Movement for Concrete Arts in 1948 with some Italian collaborators such as Monnet and Soldati. Basically, this movement promoted the resort to abstractionism and promoted the freedom of associating freely any symbol with reality. In that understanding, colors and lines are concrete by themsleves.


Sottsass and the priority to the object...

Although Ettore Sottsass' work covers a wide variety of objetcs, from industrial design to craftmanship, the artist and his art can be distiguished by a coherent formal language.
Shapes are simple, clear, totemic and geometric. His work is based on elementary graphic cigns, such as circles, squares, lines, dots,... in an attempt to snatch geometric forms from mathematics and intellectual efforts

Color is another crucial aspect of Sottsass' work. It is considered as the expression of life and generates a particular vocabulary enhancing its composition. He breaks away from the quiet, sober, serious and cold compromise of the typical industrial design of his time to create objects that are "more colorful, more joyful, more optimistic". Objects become expressive by the association of unconventional forms and hues and contradictory materials. The excentricity and irony of Sottsass' furniture are emblematic

Compared to the first practical-usage typewriter, produced by the American company E. Remington & Sons, Ettore Sottsass brought color and infancy to the object, making a typewriter a familar, playful component of life, a far cry form its scary, serious-looking predecessors.

Through his movement Memphis, Sottsass makes design a mediatic phenomenon oriented towards spectacular visual communication. Produced in a limited number, his objects are an attempt to depart from the banality of everyday life, giving priority to the imaginary and surprise. They quickly become the visible symbol of a new lifestyle, albeit reserved for an elite. Eventually, it is the minds of people and the world of fashion, advertisement and graphism that he will durably mark.

Sottsass, through his creation agency Sottsass Associati, will later tackle more functional and technical issues, those linked to the constraints of the mass market, to devote his attention to architecture and industrial design. He will work for an international and prestigious clientele (Apple, Phillips, Siemens, Alessi, Zanotta, Fiat) and creates at the beginning ot he 80's the entire image of the brand and design the interior of all of Esprit's boutiques.

Giving priority to the object, Ettore Sottsass has revolutionized the concept of industrial design through a fromal language and the unconventional use of colors, bringing design in the center of a mediatic society of mass-production.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Wassily Chair

Back at the Bauhaus, one of his first projects was the 1926 steel club armchair, also known as the Model B3 chair, and later renamed the Wassily, after the Bauhaus teacher Wassily Kandinsky, for whom it was not designed, but who liked it so much that he ask for a duplicate for his personal quarters.


Width – 31, Depth – 28, Height – 29

Weight : 30 pounds

The original product was only in black and white

It looks very light, pure, without any decoration or ornament, it is bare. It looks pragmatic, useful, but it doesn't look very comfortable because of the angle of the seat. This element makes it differ from conventional chairs which usually have a seat parallel to the ground.


It was made from extruded nickel-plated tubular steel. Unusually light and easy to assemble from ready-made steel tubes, the chair was the result of Breuer's years of experiments with bending steel and was immediately hailed as an important breakthrough in furniture design. "I thought that this out of all my work would earn me the most criticism," he noted, "but the opposite of what I expected came true".

The frame of the chair was made from polished, bent, nickelled tubular steel, which later became chrome plated. The seat came in canvas, fabric or leather in black section.

It was first produced by the manufacturer Thonet.


Nowadays, rates can vary generally for the Wassily chairs. You will find them at costs beginning from $500 to $2000 and above. The Wassily that are manufactured by Knoll are specifically more expensive because they have the official licence. As the chair has been copied a lot, you can find chairs similar to the Wassily chair at lower prices. The most expensive of all are the original models who were produced by Thonet, and went out of production during WWII.


A big part of the success that this chair has is a result of the fact that it was able to fill up a clear place at precisely the correct time. In past times, people were becoming fed up with the same old designs and simply desired something superior.

This chair was revolutionary in the use of the materials and methods of manufacturing. It is said that the handlebar of Breuer's Adler Bicycle inspired him to use steel tubing to build the chair, and it proved to be an appropriate material because it was available in quantity.

The design (and all subsequent steel tubing furniture) was technologically feasible only because the German steel manufacturer Mannesmann had recently perfected a process for making seamless steel tubing. Previously, steel tubing had a welded seam, which would collapse when the tubing was bent.

These days, the Wassily chair holds a proud spot at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. This chair became so well-known through the decades that you can even buy paper prints of it now.

Marcel Breuer

Marcel Lajos Breuer was born in Pécs, Hungary in 1902, and became on of the greatest architects and furniture designers of the 20th century .

Breuer used new technologies and new materials in order to develop his 'International Style' of work.

Architectural style, an early and influential phase of the Modern Movement, originating in Western Europe in the 1920s but finding its fullest expression in the 1930s, notably in the USA. It is characterized by a dominance of geometric, especially rectilinear, forms; emphasis on asymmetrical composition; large expanses of glazing; and white rendered walls. Breuer was one of the founders of this movement, dominant in 20th-century architecture, which grew out of the technological innovations of 19th-century Industrial architecture. ‘Truth to materials’ and ‘form follows function’ are its two most representative principles.

The Modern Movement gained momentum after World War II when its theories were influential in the planning and rebuilding of European cities. The work of Le Corbusier is perhaps most representative of the underlying principles of the movement; other notable early modernists include Adolf Loos, Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe.Breuer first studied art in Vienna after winning a scholarship. Marcel was unhappy with the institution and found work instead at a Vienese architecture office. From 1920 to 1928 he was a student and teacher at Germany's Bauhaus, a school of design where modern principles, technologies and the application of new materials were encouraged in both the industrial and fine arts.

The Bauhaus was a school that combined crafts and the fine arts, founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. It was built on the idea of creating a 'total' work of art in which all arts, to unify art, craft, and technology. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design. The school existed in three German cities (Weimer from 1919 to 1925, Dessay from 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933), under three different architect-directors : Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928, Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930 and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime.

After completing his studies at the Bauhaus Marcel traveled to Paris, where he worked in an architects office. After a year he was appointed as head of the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus. Breuer was given the title of 'young master'.

Breuer designed a whole range of tubular metal furniture including chairs, tables, stools and cupboards. Tubular steel has lots of qualities; it is affordable for the masses, hygienic and provides comfort without the need for springs to be introduced. Breuer considered all of his designs to be essential for modern living.

Breuer also designed the interiors and furnishings for the master's houses at the Bauhaus, which by then had moved to Dessau.

Not only did Breuer design furniture, he also designed a standardised metal house and later on designed his Bamboos house. Breuer continued to teach at the Bauhaus until 1928 and for the next three years directed his own architectural practice in Berlin. During this time he designed interiors, furniture and department stores. The buildings he designed still remained unbuilt.

In 1935 Breuer was forced to emigrate to London to escape the nazis, and joined Gropius there. In London he worked in partnership with the architect, F.R.S Yorke and together they they completed several houses in Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire and Bristol. In 1936 they designed the Gane pavilion in Bristol, which combined wood and local stone. This was very different from the type of work produced at the Bauhaus, combining steel, glass and modern materials.

After 1937 Breuer moved to America. He was offered a professorship at Harvard University' s School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He set up an architectural studio with Walter Gropius in Massachusetts and together they designed the Pennsylvania Pavilion at the 1939 New York's World Fair.

In 1947 the Museum of Modern Art in New York ran a touring exhibition of Breuer's work.

In 1953 Breuer worked as part of a team designing the UNESCO building in Paris.