Design: Design Icons

SALVADOR DALI once took a turn-of-the-century chair and set about dismantling it. He changed its leather seat to chocolate. One of its legs stood in a glass of beer. Another stood upon a Louis XV door knob, making the chair so unstable that it toppled over when anyone approached. He called it the atmospheric chair. "And what does that mean,eh?" he asked. Well you could say it was Salvador Dali making an exhibition of himself yet again. Or you could reflect upon the fact that since the human anatomy doesn't change, there really is little to be done with chairs except play around with them. The Egyptians perfected the chair millennia ago, only they called it a throne. It wasn't until Wassily Kandinsky cycling to Bauhaus hit upon the notion that bike handlebars could lend something to design that the cantilevered chair was designed to kick away chair legs.

Italian maestro of design Mario Bellini says that designing a chair is harder than designing a computer. He has designed both. I am sitting on his "Cab" chair for Cassina, its skeletal frame covered tautly in leather with zips running saucily up its legs, even as I work on an Olivetti "Creative" computer and he's convinced me. A lot of energy has been poured into their detail; but the chair is workmanlike as well as eloquent. I like its simplicity. Chairs designed for the contract market (as they call office chairs) are often aggressively styled. If I had to choose an office chair, it would be from the Vitra collection. You can see some of the best-sellers at the Vitra shop in Bruton Street, London W1.

In 1991 the owner of Vitra, Rolf Fehlbaum, set up a chair museum designed by Frank Gehry in Basel near the factory. The collection begins with Thonet's bentwood cafe chair, the kind you find in bistros with a U-bend wooden back and a cane seat, to mark the point where chairs rolled off the factory assembly line, and includes such futuristic designs as the Wim Wenders stool (right) designed by Philippe Starck for Wenders' movie Until the End of the World and Ply Chair (middle) by Jasper Morrison, the master of minimalism. Every year he not only commissions a new chair from a designer - Alberto Meda is his latest prodigy (left) - but he adds to the museum collection. When I asked him what chair he'd take with him if there was a fire in his museum (Vitra's factory burnt down in the Eighties) he unhesitatingly pointed to a Charles Eames plywood chair made for a child.

Vitra make the entire collection of Eames chairs and you will be able to see some of them from 15 September in the exhibition "The Work of Charles and Ray Eames" at the Design Museum in London, sponsored by Gucci. The creative director Tom Ford, who is passionate about modern architecture and design, acknowledges the importance of the Eames. Many of today's new designs are drawn from things that Charles and Ray did in the Forties and Fifties.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all