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Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.

1948

  • Work on this object began.

2016

2017

  • You found it!

132 U Chair, 1948

This is a chair. It was designed by Donald R. Knorr and manufactured by Knoll Textiles. It is dated 1948. Its medium is bent enameled sheet steel, tubular steel. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

After graduating with a degree in architecture in 1947, Donald Knorr was accepted as a graduate student in design at Cranbrook. Alongside his graduate studies he worked in the office of Eero Saarinen and was involved in the development of Saarinen’s 70-series furniture (1991-59-13). Saarinen encouraged Knorr to enter MoMA’s International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture in 1948. The competition had two categories: seating units and storage units. The goal of the exhibition was “to obtain furniture capable of being adapted to a variety of uses in today’s small homes.” [1] The exhibition was sponsored jointly by the Museum Design Project Inc., which represented leading retail stores in more than 160 cities throughout the United States who cooperated in the competition and were slated as the outlets for the winning designs. Each entry included technical drawings and a working model of no less than ¼ full size. Knorr completed three entry concepts before adapting revisions recommended by Saarinen to simplify his design for a chair. This 132 U chair by Donald Knorr won first prize in the seating category. The design aligned well with the competition’s aims for furniture that “is comfortable and not bulky…can be easily moved, stored, and cared for,” and was “moderate in price.” [2] Knorr’s chair has a hollowed out circular back that lessened the frame’s material weight, provided comfort for the user as well as aligned it with abstract art’s forms and use of primary colors. In the chair back’s void, a direct formal link can be identified between Knorr’s 132 U chair and the 70-series furniture that he was working on in Saarinen’s office. While Knorr had originally conceived of the shell in a thick thermal plastic, Hans Knoll suggested sheet steel, also similar to the 70-series, to keep production costs low. Knoll produced this chair from 1950to 1952 and offered it with and without upholstery.

[1] “Press Release: 30,000 in Grants, $20,000 in Prizes in International Competition for Design of Low-Cost Furniture. Announcement of Terms and Conditions,” Museum of Modern Art, January 5, 1948.

[2] Arthur J. Pulos, The American Design Adventure, 1940-1975 (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1988), 86.

It is credited Promised gift of George R. Kravis II.

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 71.1 × 57.2 × 50.8 cm (28 in. × 22 1/2 in. × 20 in.)

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/420556877/ |title=132 U Chair, 1948 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 November 2017 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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