Monday, May 14, 2012

Zanuso-Gropius-Chrysler (14 - 20 May)

Marco Zanuso, Italian architect, designer & educator, birthday 14 May 1916
Walter Gropius, German architect & founder of the Bauhaus, birthday 18 May 1833
Chrysler Building, New York, Art Deco sky scraper, spire installed 20 May 1930

Although Marco Zanuso was trained as an architect he is most notable and influential in the Industrial Design profession.  His experiments with bent metal and sleek plastic help bring design to the masses with low cost items.  Work with Arflex (a division of Pirelli, yes that Pirelli, manufacturer of tires and the coveted Pirelli calendar) lead to the award winning design “Lady” armchair in 1951.  As a founding member of the Italian industrial design organization Associazione per il Desegno Industriale in 1956, Zanuso was instrumental in establishing the modern profession.  The ADI actively works to protect the copyright of design.  This is a gentle reminder not to purchase knock-offs and go directly to the source or officially licensed retailers.   As an educator Zanuso helped form young designers at the Polytechnic of Milan for over forty years.    

For another influential educator Walter Gropius, architecture was a family business.  However, his mark on the discipline had a far reaching impact.  When he was appointed to master of the German Grand-Ducal Saxon School of the Arts and Crafts in 1919 he transformed it into the Bauhaus, a collective of educators and students that defined the foundation of modern design.  New technologies in building materials begged for new translations into modern life and subsequently the buildings in which it is housed.  This approach crossed platforms so much so that in 1963 when hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, who passed away last week, introduced his groundbreaking "bob" cut it was described as “Bauhaus” inspired.  In homage to this great movement, an English band named themselves “Bauhaus 1919” (later dropping the date to simply be called “Bauhaus”) and lead what came to be known as the gothic rock movement of the late 1970s early ‘80s.     

With the excitement of new building technologies man was able to build bigger and higher.  After the invention of the elevator, the race to build the tallest building was on.  The first building to reach 1000 feet was the Chrysler Building in New York when the spire was installed, a title it held for all of eleven months before the Empire State building claimed it.  As the epitome of the Art Deco building it is my personal favorite.  Architect William Van Alen superbly translated the iconography of the automobile company in image and material by cladding the nesting tire motif in stainless steel.  This building boom soon fizzled as the Great Depression continued but the torch was picked up in the late 1990s with the advent of new computer technologies allowing for more complex and safer designs.  Man inched higher and higher until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai put the proverbial nail in the coffin to the race yet again when it opened at an astonishing  2717 feet, 1050 feet higher than the previous winner.  That means at 1046 feet high, the entire Chrysler Building can fit within the space between the top and the next highest. 


Associazione per il Desegno Industriale website
Arflex, Milan website, where you can purchase the Lady Chair and other Zanuso designs 
The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation website
Bauhaus (the band) website
List of the world's tallest buildings
to learn more about the images shown here

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