Design Classic – Influential and important design

Matched Pair of Vintage Diamond Chairs by Harry Bertoia
Matched Pair of Vintage Diamond Chairs by Harry Bertoia

No. 22 Diamond Chair

  • Designer: Harry Bertoia
  • Material: upholstery and rubber
  • Manufacturer: Knoll Associates, New York city

Many would argue that this is more of a sculpture than a chair. It was created to be observed from all angles and built on Bertoia’s previous work with visual transparency and metal wire sculpting. Indeed, such was his attitude towards his profession. He had been a sculptor before inventing this chair and continued to do so for the remainder of his life. On the other hand, this wire chair represents the aesthetic of postwar design – new materials, a new lightness of form, and a promise of the future for many people.

Harry Bertoia 1950s Diamond chair
Harry Bertoia 1950s Diamond chair

Bertoia was at the centre of contemporary American design advances from the late 1930s when he relocated to the Cranbrook Academy. He met his friend Charles Eames, with whom he temporarily collaborated, and Florence Knoll at Cranbrook. She was the one who later offered him the commission to design and build the chair of his choice. The Diamond collection took two years to develop, with fabricated wire mesh to create a network of diamond patterns shaped into these unique sitting shells floating in space. Because it relied on hand welding, the range was always pricey. Despite being Bertoia’s final furniture designs, they have become classic postwar chairs.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

McDermott, C. (1997). Twentieth-century design. Carlton.

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