"Kontour" Davis Bench

Designer: Wolfgang C.R. Mezger

Location: Ground floor

This elegant bench was designed by the well-respected contemporary designer Wolfgang C.R. Mezger. Interestingly, Mezger is seen as something of the champion of the modern office, producing simple, sleek desks, bookshelves, and coffee tables.

The muted tones of this bench make it somewhat unique among the more colorful furnishings in the library. This was a deliberate choice by library interior designers Gwen Emery and Patrick Deaton (who we’ve mentioned before). They wanted to maintain the sleek, modern aesthetic of the rest of the library while not distracting from the fascinating display of the bookBot just behind it—and given the incredibly awesome nature of the bookBot, I can’t blame them.

Overall, I think they nailed it.

—Jake

Bertoia Diamond Chair

Designer: Harry Bertoia

Location: private group study rooms throughout library

Italian born Harry Bertoia met Florence Schust at the Cranbook Academy of Art.  This friendship would pay off, as Florence would later marry Hanz Knoll and invite Bertoia to create whatever he’d like for the Knoll company.  The result was the Bertoia Seating Collection (1952) which included the Bertoia Diamond Chair. 

The Diamond Chair (which looks a little marine-like to me) is constructed out of thin steel rods which criss-cross and are formed to create the curvature of the chair.  Bertoia said of his chair design: “If you look at the chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture.”  It isn’t too surprising for him to make this comparison, because not only was he famous for his furniture designs, Bertoia was a prolific sculptor and jewelry artist.

Much like his furniture designs, his sculptures and jewelry are made out of industrial materials like metals and woods.  But he uses these typically rugged substances to create graceful and elegant pieces of art.

-Erica

Dip and Double Dip Benches

Designer: Chris Howker

Location: 1st Floor

Quantity: 1 each

The dip and double dip benches are the first pieces of beautiful furniture greeting you as you enter the library from the 1st floor. Their metallic texture and stainless steel construction provide a great visual parallel to the magnificent book bot before you. Speaking of, these benches are one of the few pieces of furniture not made out of leather or pleather material in the library (another rare one being the Womb Chair). Another thing to notice is the gray the ground floor furniture selections, matching visual texture of the floor (remember the Cycle Bench from way back? )

These benches come to us from the mind of Chris Howker, from the B&B Italia furniture design firm. Howker is a UK designer who has worked on industrial design, hotel interiors, salon interiors, coffee bars, and a bunch of other things. He’s actually one of the few designers we’ve mentioned on the blog that has a professional background in furniture design—most designers have started in architecture.

//B&B Italia - Chris Howker

A chair…should be beautiful from all sides and all angles —Hans Wegner

The Shell Chair

Designer: Hans Wegner

Quantity: 15

Location: 4th floor (by southwest windows)

Hans Wegner (who, as you might remember, designed the Wing Chair), was nothing if not innovative, and the Shell Chair demonstrates that in spades. Futuristic, graceful, and remarkably stable considering it only has 3 legs, it falls well within the scope of design proficiency one could expect from Wegner.  

But even by Wegner’s own superlative standards, this chair was unique. For one, it was one of very few times Wegner deviated from a solid wood design to dabble in molded plywood. However, perhaps most interesting is that in spite of the fact that it eventually became a classic icon of the “golden age of furniture design,” the Shell Chair experienced very little success following its release in 1963. Due to low demand, only 15 chairs were produced in the initial order—two of which were given away when no buyers could be found. No more copies of the chair were produced until 1997, when two of the originals sold at a London auction for 20,000 pounds each. Since that time, the chair has been in constant production from Carl Hansen and Son.

This thing’s a classic, folks. You need to try it—if only for that brief moment when, from a certain angle, you look a little like you’re riding a manta ray. 

—Jake

Unlike Keats, who said that knowing about the rainbow shatters its beauty, I feel that the knowledge about an object can only enrich your feelings for the object itself. —Charles Eames

Eames Lounge Chair

Designers: Charles and Ray Eames

Location: Professor’s Lounge (5th Floor)

Quantity: 4

Now, this isn’t the first Eames design you’ve seen on COHL, and it certainly won’t be the last. However, what makes the Lounge Chair distinctive from other Eames chairs was the purpose in its design. Whereas in other endeavors the Eames’ tried to balance their designs with affordability, the Lounge Chair was all luxury.

And man, is it luxurious. The molded plywood backing supports the rich, leather upholstery while special joints between the sections allow the chair to flex and conform to the user’s body. In fact, one of the central design concepts was to recreate “the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” Soon after its release, the Lounge Chair became a staple in modern design. Both the Museum of Modern Art and Henry Ford Museum have permanent exhibits featuring the Lounge Chair.

So, we get it. It’s a cool chair. But I’d like to jump back to the quote at the top, if I may. Like Charles Eames’ sentiment, we here at COHL feel that learning about an object enriches our appreciation of the object as well those who made the object possible.

And in this case, we get to take that appreciation a bit further. Because the handsome pair of individuals in the lower photo just so happens to be Gwen Emery, the Director of Library Environments, and Patrick Deaton, the Associate Director for Learning Spaces and Capital Managements. What that translates to is "the people who designed the interior of the entire freaking Hunt Library."

That’s right. You’re looking at the minds behind every chair, couch, table, and workspace in the library. They were gracious enough to give us an extensive tour of the library from a very unique perspective, which we will be including in a future post. But in the mean time, come to the library, take a seat, and bask in the genius of those who made it all possible. 

—Jake

Krefeld Lounge Chair

Designer: Ludvig Mies van der Rohe

Location: Grad Lounge

Ludvig Mies van der Rohe was quite the figure.  If we haven’t convinced you of his designs as being a quintessential part of the Modern Era with our post on the MR Lounge Chair or our post on the Barcelona Chair, here’s another go at it.  (But seriously, just accept that he’s a great designer.)

The Krefeld Lounge chair is comfortable, sleek, modern, and suitable for a business or home environment.  Van der Rohe thought of the chair to accompany a house project commissioned by Hermann lange and Josef Esters in Krefeld, Germany— hence the name Krefeld Lounge Chair.  The buildings now serve as a museum for contemporary art.

Although the chair was never manufactured in van der Rohe’s lifetime, Knoll and the Museum of Modern Art combined efforts to make his chair design—among others—come to fruition in 2004 in the Krefeld Collection.  

Erica

The Womb Chair

Designer: Eero Saarinen

Location: Grad Lounge

That’s right, we’re hittin’ you up with an Eero Saarinen double header. Last week, Jake gave a good overview of how much of a total badass Saarinen is in the world of chairs and design, so lets talk about the Womb Chair and some other stuff Saarinen did.

Apparently the history of this chair is pretty simple. Florence Knoll just called up Saarinen and was like “Hey dude, can you make me a chair that I can curl up in?” Of course, when Florence Knoll asks you to make a chair, and you’re one of the premier chair designers, you’re gonna make a chair. So Saarinen did and this is the result. 

One warning: don’t sit down in this chair if you’re even the smallest bit tired. You will nap.

A little more on Saarinen: he wasn’t only a chair designer. He also designed, you know, The St. Louis Gateway Arch, the MILLER HOUSE (which we have to thank for the invention of my favorite chair in Hunt Library), the CBS Building in New York, John Deere World Headquarters in Illinois, and the main terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport.

—Peter

"The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again." —Eero Saarinen

The Tulip Stool

Designer: Eero Saarinen

Location: 2nd Floor

The Tulip Stool was produced alongside the Tulip Chair, which went on to win the 1962 Design Center Stuttgart Award, 1969 Museum of Modern Art Award, and 1969 Federal Award for Industrial Design. True to Saarinen’s sentiment described in the quote above, the initial design was a one-piece fiberglass construction; however, since it was unable to support a person’s weight without breaking, Saarinen switched to a two-piece cast aluminum model. 

But enough about the stool. Let’s talk about the guy. 

The career of Eero Saarinen (no idea how to pronounce that name, btw) provides a fascinating look into the absurdly small, unbelievably interconnected world of 20th century design. Originally from Finland, Saarinen emigrated to the United States in 1923 with his family. Soon after, his father began teaching classes at the Cranbrook School of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. As a teenager, he began taking classes at Cranbrook, where he began to foster friendships with Charles and Ray Eames (that’s right, the team that designed this beauty) AND befriended Florence Knoll, who later became both a co-owner of the Knoll manufacturing company (who possesses rights to manufacture the Tulip Stool) as well as a pupil of Mies Van der Rohe (oh, you know, the titan of modern architecture that designed this and this). 

But you know what they say: “Great minds go to the same small art institute in suburban Michigan where they become lifelong friends while pursuing an illustrious career in design.”

Or something like that.

-Jake

Egg Chair

Designer: Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971)

Quantity: a dozen

Location: 2nd Floor

This is a chair with history.  Arne Jacobsen, the architect of the Egg Chair (he disliked the term designer), was a very important figure in, and proponent of, what is called the “International Modern Style.”  In his early architecture career, the Danish architect added works like the Stelling House in Copenhagen and the Aarhus City Hall to his portfolio.  From early on in his career, Jacobsen was known for paying attention to every detail.   At the Bellevue Beach, Jacobsen designed every aspect of the man-made scenery from the watch towers to the nearby theater to the original lifeguard uniforms.  

Because of his Jewish roots, Jacobsen was exiled to Sweden during WWII. When the war was over, he returned to Denmark and continued his career, designing buildings such as the Soholm Terraced Houses (images here and here), and the Rodovre Town Hall.  Arguably his largest project was the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) Hotel completed in 1960. (It is now the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel.)  

When it was built, the SAS Hotel was the largest hotel and tallest building in Denmark.  Jacobsen believed in Gesamtkunst, or a total work of art.  He implemented Gesamtkunst into the hotel as the entire building, with all of its components, completed a huge piece of structural artwork.  Jacobsen drew up every detail of the entire building from the glass windows, to the silverware in the kitchen, to the chairs in the lobby.  

This is where the Egg Chair (1958) comes into the picture.

The shell of the egg is constructed of polyurethane foam and fiberglass.  The tilt of the shell can be adjusted to the individual, and the chair stands on a 4-star base.  While sitting in the chair, you feel transported to another time- one still of modernity, but in the past.  The height of the shell and the curved body separates you from the busy world around you.  It’s easy to imagine fancy men and women in 60s wool soots sitting in these chairs in the lobby of the SAS hotel, waiting for a important meeting about marketing strategies or stock prices.

Jacobsen’s furniture designs are not limited to the Egg Chair.  He also used the Egg-related Swan Chair in the SAS Hotel.  His 7 Series also contains chairs that have become quite ubiquitous such as the Series 7 Side Chair and the Ant Chair.

-Erica