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| Designbest editorial staff

“I

f you pay a closer look at these chairs, you will notice that they are mostly made of air, just like sculptures, space goes through them”. This is what Harry Bertoia stated. Harry Bertoia, versatile product designer, illustrator and sculptor, is the man behind Diamond Chair, one of the most popular chairs in history. Diamond Chair is a real sculpture made out of air and steel. And even more than a hundred years after Bertoia's birth, it's still considered a truly modern and ground-breaking piece.

It was 1951 when Harry Bertoia, originally from Pordenone in north-east Italy, first tried working with steel following an innovative light and airy design. His main inspiration was undoubtedly modernist design, which during the thirties increased rapidly in popularity. What's more, these aesthetics were shared with other designers like: Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames and Alvar Alto; some of the names who entered the world-famous international competition held in 1941 by MOMA New York: Organic Design in Home Furnishings. Their chief aim was to push boundaries of product design by experimenting with new materials and innovative manufacturing techniques. This is where the idea for the Diamond Chair comes from: structural frame made from a metal strand. Diamond Chair has a “simple” mesh frame, inspired by the shape of a diamond and which, in a single instant, revolutionized furniture design. In fact, metal had never been previously employed in this industry.

It's at the beginning of the fifties when this “new” modern design aesthetic really starts to make headway. These are also the years when Hans and Florence Knoll offer Bertoia the chance to design, without any restraint, a new furniture collection. Subsequently, in the summer of 1950, he relocates to Pennsylvania with his entire family. In December 1952, Knoll presents to the international market the so-called Bertoia Collection, of which Diamond Chair is the star piece.

Diamond Chair was previewed in New York, during the first exhibition ever hold by Knoll for a single designer; this was an instant hit. However, at the height of his international success, Bertoia decided to leave this field, and Knoll, to devote his time and efforts to his true passion: sculpture. In fact, art, has always been part of his dna. During his time at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, MI, U.S.A , first as a student and then as a faculty member, he was able to fine-tune his metalworking techniques, alongside jewellery design and drawing. And all this, definitely made his passion grow even stronger.   

A versatile and extremely creative designer: this is how Bertoia can be described. What's more, Bertoia has always defied being put in a box; a designer with an innate dynamic mind who has worked to bridge the gap between art and design. And it's not a mere coincidence that each of his pieces is a result of a blend of these two worlds. One above all: Diamond Chair. In fact, Diamond Chair is both a chair and a sculpture; symbol of the innovation this unquestionable iconic designer brought to the field of furniture design.  

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