Chair (wire)

Knoll International

Side chair (1952), Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was an Italian-born American artist, sound art sculptor and modern furniture designer. At Cranbrook Academy, Bertoia mainly focussed his efforts on metal work and jewelry making, even designing and creating wedding rings for Ray Eames, for whom he worked at the Molded Plywood Division of the Evans Product Company.

In 1950, he was invited to move to Pennsylvania to work with Hans and Florence Knoll (who was also a Cranbrook Graduate). During this period he designed five wire pieces for Knoll. His aim was to make chairs ‘mainly made of air, like a sculpture. Space passes right through them’. They were handmade at first because a suitable mass production process could not be found. Unfortunately, the chair edge utilized two thin wires welded on either side of the mesh seat. This design had been granted a patent to the Eames for their wire chair (which simply was a wired version of their fiberglass chair) produced by Herman Miller. Bertoia & Knoll redesigned the seat edge, using a thicker, single wire, and grinding down the edge of the seat wires at a smooth angle — the same way the chairs are produced today.

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© Konll International S.P.A., Milan, Italy

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