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La chaise vide – A research about a chair and design and art

Friday, March 27, 2015


   It seems to be safe for me to say that if you don’t know Charles and Ray Eames you are not really a cultivated person. The super design couple have been a major influence in the design and the art world in general, making timeless designs as well as conceptual art works. In this research I wanted to analyze one of my favorite chairs which was designed by the Eames and try to get to a conclusion on why I like it as much as I say I do or if I have just chosen an object that I call my favorite to make me sound more cultivated. This is it.

   To begin with I want to make a little historical introduction to this chair with a name of double entendre. La Chaise was originally designed in the year 1948 by the couple Charles and Ray Eames for a competition held by The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The competition was entitled “Low-Cost Furniture Design” and was really connected with the atmosphere of the United States at post World War II times where a lot of immigrants were imigrating to the States and furniture had become a high priced luxury. So in a way to bring new horizons to inhabitants and introduce a new way of living the MoMA made that competition and invited world wide reknown designers to participate. The Eameses got second place but for a different chair called the “DAX” chair. Although the La Chaise chair didn’t win any of the awards at the competition it got some attention for elegant design in the free form. The Eameses were really interested in innovative designs and the plastic substance in general. They did a lot of experimenting with the shape of the new content in different but clever forms. Their rounded lines were easily transformed from the sketchbooks in to development and production. Ironically the chair was too expensive in production at the time so the chair was not manufactured again until the Swiss furniture company Vitra took over the production in the year 1998 with increasing interest from the public. The ‘La Chaise’ chair is “Two bonded fiberglass shells, chromed rod base  with natural oak cruciform foot”.

The 'La Chaise' chair by Charles and Ray Eames

The ‘La Chaise’ chair by Charles and Ray Eames


   The name of the chair has like I said before a double entendre (double meaning). In the French language the word la chaise means simply the chair, given that the La Chaise is a chair the first meaning speaks for itself but the other meaning connects with the artist Gaston Lachaise. In the year 1927 Gaston Lachaise made a sculpture by the name of Floating Figure which shows a figure which appears to be floating on water. It is a female figure with arms wide in a somehow formal but welcoming posture looking upwards, perhaps to the future while her feet are laying horizontal but crossed as if she would be sitting in a sofa.

'Floating Figure' by Gaston Lachaise

‘Floating Figure’ by Gaston Lachaise


   When looking closely at the chair by the Eames and the sculpture by Lachaise. You can well see that the sculpture was an inspiration to the chair which right now in the year 2015 is still a great object both as a designed object and as an eye pleasing artwork in itself.

   Two years ago I was studying at a technical school in Reykjavik where I took a course called Design history and I remember seeing a picture of the ‘La Chaise’ next to the ‘Floating Figure’. At that moment which, when I think of it now, was perhaps kind of stupid of me, not to have thought of before, being 21 years old, I saw for the first time how thin the line is between art and design. It really crossed me as a weird experience because for me the chair itself is as much of an artwork as the original sculpture by LaChaise only with more functions as it is supposed to be comfortable to sit in although I haven’t tried it myself.

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