7 iconic mid-century chairs designed by modernist architects

1. Wassily chair

Marcel Breuer was one of the first and youngest students to be accepted into Bauhaus, the radical arts and crafts school founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany.

There, while still in his early 20s, the Hungarian-German architect was inspired by the first bicycle he purchased due to the lightness of its tubular steel frames, which propelled him to experiment on the bendable material in furniture design.

2. Barcelona chair

From Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who coined the term “less is more,” and started the stonefall for minimalism in interior designing, was the Barcelona chair. It was designed with long-time collaborator Lilly Reich, when they were commissioned by the German Republic to design the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain.

3. Grand Confort

In 1928, riding on the high of his career as an architect, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret—better known as Le Corbusier—decided to look into furniture designing as well. Together with his cousin, Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret, and French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand, they created a classic furniture line dubbed Le Corbusier’s Furniture for the annual art exhibition Salon d‘Autumne in Paris. Based on Corbusier’s principles to design a chair that was a “machine for sitting,” Perriand came up with three, each accommodating different sitting positions for different leisure activities, and one of them was the modernist reflection of the traditional club chair: the LC3 Grand Confort.

4. Paimio chair

Besides the ingenious design applied to the Model 60 stacking stool, Alvar Alto had also created the Paimio armchair prior, and in a way, steered modern furniture design back to using the more organic wood material, at a time when steel was criticised for its saturation in furniture designs.

5. Tulip chair

One of the modernist architects inspired by Aalto was Eero Saarinen. Unlike his father, Eliel Saarinen, an architect famed for his Art Nouveau buildings, Saarinen the younger prided himself on more structural and futuristic designs for his architecture, which included the imposing St Louis Gateway Arch.

6. Eames lounge chair and ottoman

A name that is synonymous with modern design, Charles and Ray Eames were most recognised and celebrated for their multidisciplinary designs, including the distinguished Eames lounge chair and ottoman, introduced in 1956.

Inspired by the traditional English club chair and visualised by Charles as a “well-used [baseball] mitt,” the American architect and designer duo adapted Aalto’s use of moulded plywood with leather for the Modernist icon.

7. Egg chair

Recognised for his attention to proportions, Arne Jacobsen had contributed much of his functionalist architectures in Scandinavian countries and internationally, seen in the likes of the Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Copenhagen in Denmark, St Catherine’s College in Oxford, and the Royal Danish Embassy in London.

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