Can architects design furniture

Architects as designers
Beyond the building

From furniture and lights to floors and tapestries to crockery and cutlery: There is hardly an architect who does not even design an object in his life to express his understanding of form on a smaller scale.

"41", Alvar Aalto, Artek | © Sometimes design can be so simple: Similar to a clothing pattern, three elements are cut from a plywood board, which can then be easily put together to form a side table thanks to simple plug-in connections - and just as easily dismantled when moving house - to let. The functional table by Ferdinand Kramer (1898–1985) is a testimony to one of the various creative periods of the Frankfurt architect: Designed in 1951 during his last year of exile in New York, it belongs to the furniture series Knock down (in German "decomposable"), which on the one hand reflects Kramer's exploration of the new world and is based on the American lifestyle.

On the other hand, it is characterized by characteristics such as intelligent use of materials and durability, which can also be found in Kramer's earlier and later Frankfurt designs and which have only been rediscovered in architecture and design in recent years.

Architect furniture

“Barcelona Chair”, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Knoll International | © Like Ferdinand Kramer, the first designers of the 20th century were architects who designed the right furniture and other utensils for their building projects themselves, as they were not suitable on the market could find. “Life demands different equipment, different furniture, different rooms,” said Kramer, explaining the concerns and desires of that time, which many architects shared and which produced numerous design classics. This is how the armchair was created in 1920 F51because Walter Gropius couldn't find the ideal seating furniture for his director's room in the Weimar Bauhaus. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the in 1929 Barcelona chairto offer the Spanish royal couple a seat at the opening ceremony of the German pavilion at the world exhibition. And the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto designed armchair 41 in 1930 for his famous lung sanatorium in Paimio to help the sick to breathe better while they were sitting.

Product design

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    "Drift," Amanda Levete, Established & Sons
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    "Rapport", Jürgen Mayer H., Vorwerk
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    "LC3", Le Corbusier, Cassina
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    "Piana", David Chipperfield, Alessi
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    "Torq", Daniel Libeskind, Sawaya & Moroni
It was not until the middle of the 20th century that the professional field of product designer separated from that of architect and established itself as its own. With one exception: Italy. In the country, which has undoubtedly played a leading role in furniture and product design since the post-war period, there were no special training centers for a long time. Those who were aiming for an academic training as a designer studied architecture - in contrast to Germany. Technical and master schools have a long tradition here, and the Bauhaus in particular played a central role in establishing the design profession. The renowned school brought together the arts and crafts and artistic training for the first time and made the design of furniture for industrial production one of its main tasks.

Formal aesthetics

Today there is a wide range of well-designed furniture and everyday objects from product designers. Nevertheless, architects still design their furniture themselves in special cases, among other things in order to express their understanding of form on a small scale. The two-seater bench drift by Amanda Levete, for example, reflects the biomorphic design language typical of the London architect; Daniel Libeskind's Torq furniture series is based on the construction of one of his museum designs, which creates a flowing transition between a square floor plan and a circular roof. And Jürgen Mayer H. from Berlin repeatedly uses encrypted data as a pattern in all of his designs - whether in a facade or in a carpet design for Vorwerk.

Use value

“Silver Chair”, Hadi Teherani, Interstuhl | © On the other hand, there are architects whose designs focus less on formal aesthetics than on practical value. So the Hamburger Hadi Teherani leaves with his Silver chair clearly recognize his weakness for technical details. However, this does not only affect the design language, rather the office armchair is an exemplary example of ergonomic seating comfort. David Chipperfield is also concerned with functionality in the foreground: his marble table Colonnade Although its circumferential pillar colonnade reminds of the literary archive he designed in Marbach, it is anything but an architectural model: The table top, which appears continuous at first glance, is cut in two places so that the table can be dismantled into three elements that can be used individually or together can be.

“Colonnade”, David Chipperfield, Marsotto Edizioni | ©


The number of architectural furniture is large and the demand of many architects to expand their artistic concept beyond the building to the interior and, at best, to create a design classic, is just as large. After all, the icons of furniture history were primarily designed by architects - even though the product design profession was still in its infancy. The legacy weighs heavily, especially because many of the old designs are still so contemporary today that they are increasingly being re-introduced as re-editions in the range of international furniture companies. The best example is Ferdinand Kramer's furniture, which is still so fascinating today with its radical modernity and unconditional simplicity that it has been available again this year.