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Harry Bertoia, while designing his classic wire chairs, was interested in exploring the formal expression of sitting on air; of sitting on as little structure as possible. Sitting on air is a design idea, a concept. Bertoia who for years explored the possibilities of wire in his sculpture, used this facility in manipulating wire to make a chair. The Bertoia chair is the expression of sitting on air. The forms he derived do not, at first sight, shout ‘furniture!’ His concerns were with creating structure with wire – seating was a secondary concern. His chairs are certainly not preconceived and not the least bit presumptuous. They are forms elegantly related to the process of manufacture. They are, simply, the complete understanding of what can be done with wire and the process of resistance welding. After 45 years they remained unexcelled, the singular expression of a singular mind. Bertoia’s forms raise an important question: how can we be irreverent with ultimate solutions? How to question their singularity? We must question the sources from which they derive, the method and process of formal expression. Philosophical questions will not give us an answer. If we understand the material and process we stand a chance of finding with in them, opportunities that might have been overlooked. There is the possibility of pushing material and process further and realizing new formal potentials.

Bertoia Chair Knoll, 1955
Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978)


Design is a Performing Art
Bruce Hannah 1997© | Illustrations by Bruce Hannah