Female Architects and their Chairs

There is little shortage of articles on ‘Chairs designed by Architects’. However, these are almost exclusively male architects. Here’s my salute to the women.

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.  Virginia Woolf

Google ‘Chairs designed by Architects’ and you’ll get a great list including Eames, Mies Van Der Rohe, Ghery; architecture and furniture design share many characteristics. But as I was searching I noticed a lack of recognition for women. This is nobodies fault really, but that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t change things.

Slide3A number of Eileen Gray’s pieces, including the Folding Hammock Chair above, are currently on exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum; they describe her as ‘independent and adventurous’. Eileen worked with and was influenced by Le Courbusier who visited Grays E1027 house (see photograph – warning: mild nudity). Gray’s work began with Japanese lacquer, making a number of lacquer screens, but later branched into Art Deco furniture in the mid 1920’s.

Eileen Gray’s designs are now as familiar as designs from the other important early 20th Century architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer et al. Zeev Aram, Chairman, Aram Designs Ltd EileenGray.co.uk

Joint partner of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates with her husband Robert Venturi, Scott Brown is . Unfortunately, a petition by Women in Design, a group from Harvard University, for Denise to be retroactively awarded a joint lauriet with her husband and partner who won the Pritzker Prize in 1991 was rejected. Scott Brown’s chair was is described as a Postmodern interpretation of an eighteenth-century Queen Anne chair. Manufactured by Knoll in the 1980’s, Dezeen describe it as the duo’s “commentary on consumer society’s desire for historic continuity

Basically, with everyone striving to be revolutionary, you will be most revolutionary if you try to be ordinary – Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown in Las Vegas, 1966

Slide5

If you’ve been to Ikea you may have picked up the POÄNG or PELLO chairs, strongly influenced by Alvar Alto’s 1932 contemporary chair. Alvar’s Finnish wife Aino also turned her hand to both architecture and design, particularly the interior design of a number of Alvar’s buildings. Her Armchair 46 was less successful than her husband’s, but her real legacy is her vast collection of glassware for Iittala. Aino was one of the founders of Artek, the Finnish furniture company.

How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself? Anaïs Nin

Slide6

Pritzker winner Zaha Hadid designed the Z Chair; Hadid’s practice describe it as summarising “the essence of creative design and the research developed by Zaha Hadid Architect’s over the last three decades.” A similar piece, the Gyre lounge chair, is expected to sell at auction for $50,000-$80,000.

There are 360 degrees, why stick to one? Zaha Hadid

Slide8

Carme Pinos is the woman behind Estudio Carme Pinos architectural practice and Objects, her furniture company. Pinos is primarily known for her shelves, but above is the Silla Sentada (1989) chair she designed with Enric Miralles.

Slide9

Firstly, lets all take a moment to appreciate Linda Bo Bardi’s name. Okay.

In her early career, Linda opened her own architectural practice in Italy. When work fell short during the War, she began to write for a number of newspapers before becoming Deputy Director for Domus Magazine. It was this work that allowed Bardi to explore the social and cultural effect of the politics of the time, which is expressed in her chair design.  Bardi’s Bowl Chair was designed in 1951; the year she became a naturalised Brazillian Citizen, having moved there 5 years earlier. The design turned away from the typical upright turning instead to the bowl shape so as to promote comfort above appearance. Two original chairs remain and are located at Bardi’s Casa de Vidrio, pictured above. See Linda Bo Bardi: Together for an in depth collection of her work.

“Modern materials and modern production methods will replace primitive methods,
preserving not the forms but the underlying structure of original creative possibilities” Lina Bo Bardi

Slide10

Another Pritzker laureat is Japanese Kazuyo Sejima who is not afraid to have fun (see her Architecture for Dogs design video). Her chair for Maruni, designed with SANAA partner Ryue Nishizawa, is a simplistic beechwood chair with ‘ears’ as the back.

“There’s nothing I’m particularly conscious of, but I’m aware that my work is sometimes thought of by people from other countries as being distinctively Japanese. It seems to me that there is probably a different awareness of form and shape at play here.” Kazuyo Sejima+Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA

Slide7

I’ve saved my favourite for last: Marion Mahoney. Her chair is was designed for Cafe Australia in Melboure and includes a handbag tray beneath the circular seat and angular back. Mahoney worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and was the first female to get an architectural license in Illinois. In the shadow of Wright and her husband, Walter Burley Griffin, Mahoney may not be a name you recognise, but you should definitely get familiar with her render work. In August 2008, her memoir ‘The Magic of America’ was published online by the Art Institute of America (see here) and it includes 700 amazing images of her drawings. The New York Times wrote a very interesting article on her here.

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