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Design Icon: Bertoia Side Chair

by Maxwell Tielman

Design*Sponge / Design Icon: Bertoia Side Chair. Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Design: Bertoia Side Chair

Designer: Harry Bertoia (Italian, 1915—1978)

Date: 1952

Country of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Knoll

Materials: Welded steel rods, available with a removable vinyl seat cushion.

Background: Considered by many to be one of midcentury design’s most iconic figures, Harry Bertoia (born Arieto Bertoia) began his career studying at the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. It was here that he developed his interest in three-dimensional design and came in contact with legendary designers like Walter Gropius and Ray and Charles Eames.  It was also during his time at Cranbrook that he was introduced to Florence Knoll, the woman who would later commission Bertoia’s 1952 series of wire seating for the Knoll furniture company. An avid sculptor, Bertoia approached his seating collection with the eye and intent of an artist.  “If you look at the chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture,” he said. ”Space passes through them.” The forms are playful and organic, but also indicative of Bertoia’s interest in the human body and ergonomics.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

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