Monday, December 10, 2018

Frank Gehry's Cross Check & Wiggle Chairs

Today I wanted to discuss two iconic chairs that have both funny names & interesting, undulating designs- the cross-check chair and the wiggle chair, both created by the legendary Canadian architect Frank Gehry.   Frank is known for his international design work, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, Guggenheim Museum in Spain, and 8 Spruce Street ("New York by Gehry") here in NYC, among many others.  He is one of the most prolific and sought-after contemporary architects of our time, credited with spearheading the Deconstructivism movement in architecture and design.  Deconstructivism is characterized by a non-rectilinear approach that typically distorts and fragments the exterior of a structure. Take one look at the Vitra Design Museum and you'll understand.  While Frank's architectural achievements are nearly too numerous to count, today I wanted to discuss his furniture design, specifically the cross check and wiggle chair:

The wiggle chair, constructed of corrugated cardboard, was designed by Gehry in 1972 as part of his "Easy Edges" furniture collection.  The story goes that Frank saw a pile of cardboard lying outside his office one day, and began to experiment with it.  He was already using the material to create small building models for his architectural pursuits, and discovered that it became very strong when glued together.  The wiggle chair is composed of about 60 layers of cardboard held together by hidden screws with a fiberboard edging.   The chair is named after the shape of it's seat, which loops back and forth to create the base:

The wiggle chair is sold today through the Italian furniture company, Vitra:

The only problem with the wiggle chair was it's price.  Despite winning numerous awards for the piece, Frank Gehry was ultimately unhappy with the chair because it failed to conform to his belief that furniture should be "affordable to all."

Eighteen years later, after gaining considerable notoriety as an architect, Knoll Furniture asked Gehry to design a line of furniture for them.  In 1990, Frank unveiled his cross-check chair design as part of his "Gehry Collection for Knoll."  The chair was inspired by the apple crates Gehry would play on as a child- despite their seemingly flimsy look, the crates were extremely sturdy and durable, composed of thinly-sliced wood woven together.  Gehry's cross check chair collection, named after his favorite ice hockey teams, (he WAS Canadian after all) are made of wafer-thin strips of laminated maple woven together into a featherweight yet sturdy form (DWR).  You can tell from the piece's shape that Gehry was also inspired by the original Thonet bentwood chair:

{Gehry posing with his cross-check chair}

The cross check chair is one of my all-time favorite chair designs.  To me, the form is mesmerizing.  All of the wood grains run in the same direction for resilience.

{Gehry's hat trick chair, a sister design of the cross check}

Cross check chairs for sale...

The original design for Knoll on YLiving:

Read more about Frank Gehry and his influence here.

Read other Admiring a Classic Posts featuring some of the most iconic chairs....

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