Marc Newson’s latest creation for Ikepod sees the Australian designer interpret the most iconic timepiece of all: The Hourglass. Director Philip Andelman traveled to Basel, Switzerland, to document the designer’s modern take of the classic hourglass inside the Glaskeller factory. Each hand made hourglass comprises highly durable borosilicate glass and millions of stainless steel nanoballs, and is available in a 10 or 60 minute timer.
Schröder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964)
Dutch minimalist architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld was a member of the De Stijl movement. Significant for his work is how he pared his design down to basic cubist elements and often used primary colours to emphasise the different planes. Most of his furniture was designed and manufactured to accompany his architectural commissions.
His lengthy career began already as a young boy in his father’s carpentry shop in Utrecht. The shop, catering to the bourgeois taste of the local clientele, produced quality period pieces of furniture. He left the shop in 1917 to set up an establishment of his own. This move marked a definite break with the traditions of his father’s work.
His first attempts in search of his own artistic line, were influenced by the Amsterdam School. Rietveld re-invented the structure of chairs and other objects and built them as constructivist sculptures. In 1918 he designed an early version of his legendary Red and Blue Chair. It was published in the De Stijl Magazine, the magazine of the movement of which he became a member in 1919. In this way Rietveld came in contact with various architects associated with the modern Dutch movement. They were all looking for a way to purify their work, to remove all remnants of past styles and influences. As the fame of De Stijl rapidly spread, Rietveld’s reputation grew from that of a local craftsman to an architect recognized in avant-garde circles across Europe. While working on the Schröder House, built in 1925, he left his furniture workshop with his long-time assistant, Gerhard van der Groenekan. Most of Rietveld’s furniture designs were sold at Metz & Co, a Dutch department store.
Rietveld’s career proceeded uninterrupted until 1943. He then was subsequently barred from practising as an architect, due to his refusal to join the Nazi-controlled Kulturkammer. After the war, the country and Rietveld gradually returned to normality, and Rietveld continued his work until he died at an age of 76.
Among his numerous furniture models, The Zig Zag chair, The Red and Blue Chair, the Schelling and Military series remain as eternal design icons. Gerrit Rietveld’s designs are to be found in the most important museum collections over the world.
“A chair should be more than simply functional. It should be friendly, fun and colorful.”
- Pierre Paulin
Pierre Paulin Born in Paris in 1927,
Paulin had a French father and a stern German-speaking Swiss mother. He grew up in Laon in the Picardie region of northern France, and greatly admired his uncle, Georges Paulin, who designed cars for Panhard, Peugeot and Rolls-Royce Bentley, patented the first power-operated retractable hardtop in 1931, and was a hero of the Resistance. He was executed by the Nazis in 1942.
Paulin failed his baccalauréat and trained as a ceramist in Vallauris on the French Riviera, and then as a stone-carver in Burgundy. An injury to his right arm in a fight put paid to his dreams of becoming a sculptor and he attended the Ecole Camondo in Paris, where later designers such as Philippe Starck also studied. He had a stint with the Gascoin company in Le Havre and developed a keen interest in Scandinavian and Japanese design as well as the functional furniture created by Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Herman Miller and George Nelson in the US.
Paulin first exhibited at the Salon des Arts Ménagers in 1953, which lead to his work appearing on the cover of the magazine La Maison Française. The following year, while employed by the Thonet company, he began using swimwear material stretched over traditionally made chair frames. But he really found his forte when he joined the Maastricht-based Dutch manufacturers Artifort and came up with the Mushroom chair in 1960.
The French designer Pierre Paulin created eye-catching, convivial, comfortable chairs shaped like mushrooms, oysters, tongues and tulips, and attracted the patronage of presidents Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand, who asked him to redecorate parts of the Elysée Palace in the Seventies and Eighties.
Built from metallic frames and rubber webbing padded with foam, and covered with stretchable material in a variety of bright colours, his simple, hard-wearing, affordable chairs, divans and sofas caught the mood of the freewheeling Sixties and sold in huge numbers. They became so iconic that they are now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Paulin’s mushroom, tongue and tulip chairs were runaway successes, admired for their clear lines, the sensual feel of their material or just simply for the way their shapes cradled the body. In 1969, he won a Chicago Design Award for his Ribbon Chair. By then, he was involved in the renovation of the Denon Wing of the Louvre Museum. In 1971, he redecorated the living, dining, smoking and exhibition rooms of the Elysée’s private apartments for Pompidou.
After years with ADSA, the industrial design agency of his second wife Maia Wodzislawska, he launched his own consultancy in 1979 and worked for Calor, Ericsson, Renault, Saviem, Tefal, Thomson and Airbus.
Tall, distinguished, and elegant with his silvery hair, Paulin saw himself as “un marginal”, an outsider. He remained modest about his achievements and deplored the cult of the star designer. “Objects should remain anonymous,” he argued. “It’s extremely dangerous to give too much importance and status to people who are only doing their job. Working for the enjoyment of the greatest number is very gratifying, much more so than any official honour.”
Paulin’s forward-looking, innovative designs influenced many, including Olivier Mourgue, whose futuristic Djinn chairs featured in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Fifteen years ago, Paulin retired to the Cévennes in southern France but still came up with new designs, while several of his iconic chairs and sofas remain in production. Last year, an auction of 76 of his original pieces attracted many impressive bids.
Most of all, Paulin was an intuitive designer. “I had an uncanny ability to picture tri-dimensional objects. I could think up a shape and make it spin in my head like a sculptor or an architect would,” he said. “I made the most of that gift.”
Pierre Paulin, designer: born Paris 9 July 1927; twice married (three children); died Montpellier 13 June 2009.
Charles and Ray Eames are among the most important American designers of this century. They are best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design (e.g., the Eames Chair), industrial design and manufacturing, and the photographic arts.
Charles Eames was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended school there and developed an interest in engineering and architecture. After attending Washington University on scholarship for two years and being thrown out for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, he began working in an architectural office. In 1929, he married his first wife, Catherine Woermann (they divorced in 1941), and a year later Charles’ only child, daughter Lucia was born. In 1930, Charles started his own architectural office. He began extending his design ideas beyond architecture and received a fellowship to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he eventually became head of the design department.
Ray Kaiser Eames was born in Sacramento, California in the middle of the century’s second decade. She studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before moving on to Cranbrook Academy where she met and assisted Charles and Eero Saarinen in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Furniture Competition.” Charles and Eero’s designs, created by molding plywood into complex curves, won them the two first prizes.
Charles and Ray married in 1941 and moved to California where they continued their furniture design work with molding plywood. During the war they were commissioned by the Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells. In 1946, Evans Products began producing the Eameses’ molded plywood furniture. Their molded plywood chair was called “the chair of the century” by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy. Soon production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., who continues to produce the furniture in the United States to this day. Another company, Vitra International, manufactures the furniture in Europe. In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own home in Pacific Palisades, California as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. Their design and innovative use of materials made this house a mecca for architects and designers from all over the world. It is considered one of the most important post-war residences built anywhere in the world. [ Case Study #8]
In the early 1950s, the Eameses extended their interest and skill in photography into filmmaking. They created over eighty-five short films (2-30 minutes) ranging in subjects from tops to the world of Franklin and Jefferson, from simple sea creatures to the explanation of mathematical and scientific concepts, such as the workings of the computer.
The husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames are widely regarded as America’s most important designers. Perhaps best remembered for their mid-century plywood and fiberglass furniture, the Eames Office also created a mind-bending variety of other products, from splints for wounded military during World War II, to photography, interiors, multi-media exhibits, graphics, games, films and toys. But their personal lives and influence on significant events in American life – from the development of modernism, to the rise of the computer age – has been less widely understood. Narrated by James Franco, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is the first film since their death dedicated to these creative geniuses and their work.