Made of interwoven, laminated maple strips and intended for a line of mass-produced, lightweight, relatively inexpensive furniture, these four chair prototypes designed over the past two-and-a-half years by architect Frank Gehry reflect the ongoing development of various themes in Gehry’s earlier furniture designs.

According to curator Terence Riley, “Frank Gehry’s recent series of chair designs may be considered part of what has become a tradition of innovation in twentieth-century furniture design. Although distinctive in themselves, Gehry’s new chairs address several important themes that have characterized design for industry for more than 100 years: formal invention and economy in conception and fabrication.”

The chairs, selected from a design process in which over one hundred full-size prototypes were constructed and tested under the auspices of The Knoll Group, have a slightly flexible “basket” construction. A side chair, Cross Check demonstrates the plasticity of bent wood; a club chair, Power Play, and a side chair, High Sticking, emphasize the interwoven construction which results in a lightweight design; a café chair, Hat Trick, maximizes the efficient qualities of the previous two.

Named after terms from ice hockey, the Canadian-born Gehry’s favorite sport, these prototypes revive the possibility of a collaboration between the designer and the manufacturer at a time when, as Riley notes, “the modernist goal of integrating art and industry seems increasingly elusive.” The chairs demonstrate Gehry’s interest in the use of a single material, a single method of construction, and a blurring of the distinction between frame and seat; they also reveal his understanding of both the limitations and the possibilities of mass production.

Organized by Terence Riley, curator, Department of Architecture and Design.

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