Design Legend: Harry Bertoia

Born in Italy, Bertoia came to the States in 1930 and studied at the Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit. After receiving a scholarship and studying at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1937, he stayed at Cranbrook to teach metalwork from 1938-1943. Due to metal shortages of the war, the metal shop closed, and Bertoia taught graphic art during the years 1942-43. He then moved to California and worked briefly with Charles and Ray Eames designing furniture, and he felt his contributions to the development of bent plywood chairs were largely unrecognized. After California, he took an offer to work with Hans and Florence Knoll in Pennsylvania in Knoll’s small factory developing metal furniture and assisting with other Knoll products. There are several versions of his famous wire chairs, designed in the 1950s… They were conceived first and last as functional sculptures, visually transparent shapes floating in space, a network of small diamond patterns within a large diamond shape.

Furniture Characteristics

  • Sculptural Furniture.
  • Use of Metal and Various Fabrics.
  • Form does not Follow Function.



“The urge for good design is the same as the urge to go on living.”

– Harry Bertoia

Bertoia’s work is characterized by the linear shape of his design. He used lots of metal and metal mesh. This original chair is a metal birdcage like frame with an upholstered cushion. This adaptation borrows its overall shape from Bertoia’s original design however is only exposed metal is its legs. The seat is fully upholstered unlike the original. Additionally, its seat is  more shallow than the original. If you would like more information about Harry Bertoia and his amazing work I recommend checking out the Harry Bertoia Research Project.

Other posts about Design Legends include:

Mies van der Rohe
Frank Lloyd Wright

Hans Wegner
Micheal Thonet

The Shakers
Alvar Aato

3 thoughts on “Design Legend: Harry Bertoia

  1. Pingback: Design Legend: Arthur Mackmurdo |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s