In a sculpture, I am concerned primarily with space, form and the characteristics of metal. In the chairs many functional problems have to be satisfied first… but when you get right down to it, the chairs are studies in space, form and metal, too.” Harry Bertoia
Bertoia Chair Story:
Characteristic of the early environment at Knoll, Hans and Florence never demanded that Bertoia design furniture, but instead encouraged him to explore whatever he liked. They simply asked that if he arrived at something interesting, to show them. Bertoia later explained the process:
“I went around and discovered, quite soon, that I was not the man to do research. My feeling was that had to come from an inward direction. I began to rely once more on my own body. I began to think in terms of what I would like as a chair. It started very slowly…I came into rod or wire, whether bent of straight. I seemed to find myself at home. It was logical to make an attempt utilizing the wire.
“Once more, I went through the procedure of positioning, considering the possibility of shapes, then relating, of course, what the wire itself could be, what shapes it might take, whether there were any tools to do it with. There are many aspects of the same things coming into one’s mind, but the very first thing was whether a shape would come up that would begin to serve as a chair, sitting on it, etc. One was taking the shape of a side chair; another was beginning to extend to care of the head. This developed to the point where something could be held on to…You know, when you have something in front of you that can really physically be held, it becomes easier to make changes.”
Harry Bertoia was a complete and gifted artist. Knoll historian Brian Lutz once said, “Bertoia’s paintings were better than his sculptures. And his sculptures were better than his furniture. And his furniture was absolutely brilliant.”
On the suggestion of Herbert Matter, who had worked alongside Eames and Bertoia, Florence and Hans traveled to California and encouraged Bertoia to move east and set up his own metal shop in the corner of Knoll’s production facility. Having studied with Bertoia at Cranbrook, Florence was sure that he would produce something brilliant if given the time and space to experiment.
While he only designed one collection of furniture, Bertoia continued to be involved in the Knoll story by providing sculptures and architectural installations for Planning Unit projects. He collaborated with Eero Saarinen to design the altar for the MIT Chapel. He spent the next 25 years of his life experimenting with light, sound and volume through sculptures, paintings and architectural installations.
Today Knoll carries on Harry Bertoia’s legacy of innovation, inspiration and beauty with the Bertoia collection, which has been in continuous production around the world since its introduction. In 2005 Knoll introduced the Asymmetric Lounge, a design from Bertoia’s initial experimentation that never reached production.
Let’s get a look at the naked chair: “If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes through them” -Harry Bertoia
This is very fitting, as Bertoia was trained as a sculptor.
This is Jocelyn Lane circa 1960, enjoying a Diamond chair poolside. Be warned: If you sit in one with shorts this short on, you will get a waffle pattern on the back of your thighs. You can avoid this by buying a seat cushion, a full cover or wearing pants.
Here is the coolest person who ever sat in a Bertoia Chair:
Laurence Fishburne turning three side chairs into a lounging spot, in Paley Park, which is the coolest pocket park use of Bertoia Chairs.
Article credits: http://www.knoll.com/product/bertoia-side-chair