George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher

By heba

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On Thursday, November 8, the Yale School of Architecture opened the first major exhibition devoted to iconic American designer George Nelson. One of the most influential figures in American post-war design, George Nelson (1908-1986) is best know today as one of the founders of American Modernism and the creator of modern design icons such as the Ball Clock, the Storage Wall, the Marshmallow Sofa and Bubble Lamps. The exhibition, open through February 26, 2013, presents more than 120 examples of his home and office furnishings as well as more than 50 of his drawings, photographs, architectural models, films and other materials documenting his extraordinary achievements. The exhibition is organized by the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, Germany, under the direction of Chief Curator Jochen Eisenbrand. New Haven is the final stop on the tour and the only one on the East Coast, after it had travelled to Oklahoma City, Seattle, and Detroit.

Last week, as part of the exhibit, a group of international critics, designers and historians came together for a symposium examining the work and legacy of the gifted visionary who excelled as an industrial designer, architect, urban planner, exhibition designer, corporate image-maker and author. Sessions of the symposium included Formative Modernism; Mid-Century Modern; Mid-Century Design – Exhibitiions, Media, Politics; Context and Collaboration; and finally, the Legacy of George Nelson: the Business of Design Today. One of the speakers Paul Makovsky of Metropolis, who’s become quite an expert on Nelson, gave a riveting talk during the “Context and Collaboration” session of the symposium on the collaborative nature of the Nelson office, identifying notable colleagues such as Ernest Farmer, Suzanne Sekey, Lucia de Respinas, Ronald Beckman, Gordon Chadwick and Irving Harper who all produced designs for the office. (If you missed his talk, you can check out his article which discusses what it was like working in the Nelson office).

There’s plenty of time to make the trip to New Haven for the last stop of the traveling exhibit! A truly inspirational man, here’s a look at some of Nelson’s work. Photos are courtesy of the Yale School of Architecture and the Vitra Design Museum.

George Nelson, 1908-1986

Pretzel Armchair, 1957

Marshmallow Sofa, 1956

Ball Clock, 1948

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