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Advances in technology influenced a movement that substantially changed the way we think about design.
Particularly prevalent during the aftermath of World War I, Modernism was not a style, but more so a collection of revolutionary ideas based around the idea that design and technology could transform society.
The countless possibilities that technology and machinery provided to various disciplinary designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Le Corbusier and Charles and Ray Eames encouraged them to rethink their practices, explore new materials such as stainless steel, plywood and Plexiglas and understand fresh ideas about the environment and how we participate in the world. Advances in technology also provided the opportunity for mass production and the creation of more challenging structures and forms.
Although Modernism wasn’t restricted or attached to a definitive style or aesthetic, there were certain design characteristics of the mid-century era that were particularly prevalent. Highlighting function over fuss, Modernist designs were focused on clean lines rather than ornamental details and often explored abstract or geometrical forms. This week, we take a look at some of the most iconic designs from the Modernist period, along with some of the most influential and respected designers of this time.
Le Corbusier was not only one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, but he also designed some of the most dynamic and forward-thinking furniture designs of our time. With a great understanding of industrial processes and a keen interest in machine design, he once described the home as a 'machine for living'.
Designed in 1928 in collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, the LC4 is one of the most famous 20th century lounge chairs ever invented. This is partly thanks to its carefully-considered adjustable frame, which provides maximum comfort for complete relaxation. Despite being designed in 1925, the ash-stained walnut storage unit is also just as iconic and would still fit into a multitude of classic and contemporary environments today.
Arne Jacobsen’s partnership with Fritz Hansen dates back to the early 1930s and by the end of the 1950s, he had moved onto managing large-scale projects such as designing furniture for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. His style is typically Nordic, with a focus on smooth lines, functionality and practicality.
Both the Swan Lounge Chair and the AJ Table Lamp were designed in the late 1950s for the lounge areas of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The Swan Chair is admired for its technologically advanced and curvaceous form, which resembles the abstract shape of a swan. The AJ Table Lamp features an unusual yet striking head and a rounded base for the original intention of holding an ashtray.
Charles and Ray Eames
The Eames' were two of the primary founders of American Modernism and were recognised for their love and utilisation of plywood within their designs. As well as producing some of the most sought-after furniture designs of our time, they were also known for their revolutionary contributions to architecture, manufacturing and industrial design. Read more about their story here.
The DCW chair was a successful result of the Eames’ experimentation with moulding plywood and beautifully demonstrates the industrial advances of its era. The smooth contours and robust form of this design makes it one of the most-loved classics even to this day. The desk unit was produced within the strict principles of industrial mass production, which was a new revolutionary concept at the time. The colours were updated for this addition, whilst still in-keeping with the original geometric and angular form.
Recognised for combining an interesting mix of materials such as metal, glass, fabric, bamboo and paper, Isamu Noguchi was both a sculptor and a furniture designer in his own right. Many of his designs reflect his sculptor background through their unique and precise forms, focusing on function as well as aesthetic.
Made from washi paper and bamboo ribbing, the Akari 10A floor lamp is innovative yet beautifully simple to look at. The word ‘akari’ connotes brightness in Noguchi’s native Japanese, which brings a simple concept to a perfectly simple form. The Noguchi coffee table was inspired by Noguchi’s bronze and marble sculptures of the time and features a balanced glass table-top upon positioned wooden elements. In fact, Noguchi described this as his best furniture design of all time.
Eero Saarinen was primarily recognised for his successful collaborations with furniture manufacturer Knoll and his emphasis on curved lines within the majority of his designs. Saarinen worked with the Eames’ to develop the Tulip chair, which became one of the most elegant and timelessly stylish classics of the last century.
As the names suggest, the Tulip chair and Saarinen Tulip dining table are designed to come as a pair and make an effortlessly elegant composition in any environment. The base for both designs is cast in aluminium with a Rilsan coated finish, which helps to give a smooth and fluid appearance. Award winning and timeless, the Tulip collection is definitely one of our all-time favourites.
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