From the photographer who shaped how mid-century architecture was communicated to the furniture designer whose work is synonymous with the "space-age pop" aesthetic, we profile five icons you should know.
Eero Aarnio’s persistent quest for functional forms and manufacturing processes has been at the center of his iconic and prolific career. He gained notoriety in the early ’60s, coinciding with an era of political progressivism, economic expansion, and rapid urbanization and industrialization in Finland. Aarnio's Ball chair catapulted him to international fame; however, the designer’s consistent pursuit of simplicity and functionality has made him a timeless, and tireless, innovator.
For over seventy years, through 7,000 photography sessions, and with 70,000 negatives, Julius Shulman captured the elusive spirit of architecture with an unerring eye and indefatigable character. “A wonderful mess” is how Shulman describes his desk. Interspersed among the family snapshots, mementos, and tchotchkes are several enlarged quotations, including one from Art News: “If buildings were people, those in Julius Shulman’s photographs would be Grace Kelly: classically elegant, intriguingly remote.”
Architect Lina Bo Bardi, born Achillina Bo in Rome in 1914, made an indelible mark on mid-century Brazilian architecture and design after emigrating there following the destruction of her office in Milan during World War II.
Jens Risom’s spot in the canon of mid-century American design is one marked by displacement. Some of the accolades heaped upon the great designers should rightly have gone to Risom, who, with Hans Knoll, began priming the market for modern design as early as 1941 with the Risom-designed 600 line for Knoll. It included the first Knoll chair ever. View his prefab house in Rhode Island here.
Perriand joined Le Corbusier’s studio when she was 24. Frustrated with the traditional design she studied at Ecole de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Perriand was drawn to the industrial materials she saw used for automobiles and bicycles. She found inspiration in Le Corbusier’s books Vers une Architecture and L’Art Décoratif d’Aujourd’hui and sought out the designer at his studio. Although Le Corbusier initially rebuffed Perriand, he was impressed with the metal-and-glass rooftop bar she created for an exhibition, and invited her to work with him.