The form of the Suspension Seating, for Knoll, reflects what we could do, acting directly on the material and the process. What we tried to do was not to impose a style on the object but to have a style of working. Breakthroughs in design have often been made by designers who were primarily concerned with their process. Michael Thonet is a perfect example; having invented a new way to bend wood he created endless variations on that theme. Culminating in an extraordinary tour-de-force his rocking chaise lounge.

Making the cushions and upholstery for the seating we sewed hundreds of cushions to find out how they had to be cut and stitched in order to work. The cushions are sewed two-dimensionally and then stuffed to become three-dimensional. Putting the chair together requires popping the cushions upward to relieve the pressure on the extruded rail, and then the rail can be fitted into the cast end frame. We could not have foreseen this operation in the assembly of the chair had we just drawn the form and then hoped someone would build it. We could not have drawn this form-we had to experience making it, in order to understand what it had to be. When you act on an object you make changes and modifications that would never happen in drawing. Saarinen really let the building happen, let the building create itself. The buildings told him what they wanted to be. Louis Kahn asked the bricks what they wanted to be, but sun and light drove the forms. If we had drawn the design first we would have ended up with a hundred staples and tacks to make it look like it’s supposed to look and it would have been contrived and confused.

Suspension Seating System, 1971
Andrew Morrison & Bruce Hannah
Knoll, Inc

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