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Object Timeline

1963

  • Work on this object began.

1973

  • Work on this object ended.

2013

2015

2016

2018

  • You found it!

Braniff Airways Model 66310 Armchair, ca. 1968

This is a armchair. It was designed by Alexander Hayden Girard and manufactured by Herman Miller Furniture Company and made for (as the client) Braniff International Airways. It is dated ca. 1968 and we acquired it in 2013. Its medium is woven textile upholstery of cotton (46%), wool (33%), and nylon (21%), with vinyl, urethane foam, latex foam; molded plywood (body), cast aluminum (legs). It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Alexander Girard believed that modernism did not need to be dull or drab. He is known for his use of bright colors and bold geometric patterns at a time when solids and grays were the predominant modernist choices. He called his approach “aesthetic functionalism” For Girard, the way design made people feel mattered just as much as its utilitarian value.
Apart from his work for firms like Herman Miller and the John Deere Company, one of Girard’s biggest clients in the mid-1960s was Braniff International Airways. Tasked with creating an eye-catching visual identity for the airline, he made over 17,500 design changes, ranging from Braniff’s logo to its ground equipment. Girard collaborated with Braniff to develop the “end of the plain plane” advertising campaign. With his usual flair for color and pattern, Girard worked on everything from branded playing cards and the plane fleet itself to airport terminal interiors. He designed this rectilinear armchair with rounded corners in a low profile to accommodate the low-ceilinged spaces in Braniff airport lounges. He also felt that the resulting reduction in visual scale would create a feeling of repose. Girard intended his Braniff furniture to exemplify comfort, luxury, and elegance. He combined old and new materials and techniques, which are evident in the chair’s clarity of structure. Its components are clearly articulated through color, line, and pattern: the upholstered and foam-covered molded plywood seat and back each have a strip of welting, the separate foam seat cushion is covered in a contrasting fabric, and the legs and back posts are in cast aluminum. Originally from a Braniff interior, this chair retains its metal Braniff property tag on the underside of the seat.
In 1967, Herman Miller introduced a line of furnishings, the Girard Group, which consisted of 25 pieces based on Girard’s Braniff designs. They were only manufactured for about a year. Girard wrote in the product brochure, “The outer shell may be upholstered or painted and the welt selected in one of three coordinating colors. The inner shell and cushion may be upholstered in a variety of fabrics. The permutations are infinite.” The mix-and-match possibilities may have been too overwhelming for consumers at the time but, due to its brief production period, Girard Group items are now highly desirable.
This armchair would be the first piece of Girard furniture to enter the museum’s collection. It would complement the Girard textiles already in the collection—most significantly, examples of his Toostripe fabric in black and beige and in light and dark gray. The same fabric, in red and orange, is used on this chair.
Unlike his colleagues at Herman Miller, whose work and personalities retained public prominence in the latter part of the 20th century, Girard faded into obscurity. In 2000, Cooper-Hewitt held a retrospective exhibition on Girard’s career, The Opulent Eye of Alexander Girard. And, in the 21st century, there has been a resurgence of interest in his work.

This object was donated by George R. Kravis II. It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II in honor of Caroline Baumann.

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 66 x 102.9 x 73.7 cm (26 in. x 40 1/2 in. x 29 in.)

It has the following markings

Metal property label on underside of seat: Braniff International Airways

Cite this object as

Braniff Airways Model 66310 Armchair, ca. 1968; Designed by Alexander Hayden Girard (American, 1907–1993); USA; woven textile upholstery of cotton (46%), wool (33%), and nylon (21%), with vinyl, urethane foam, latex foam; molded plywood (body), cast aluminum (legs); H x W x D: 66 x 102.9 x 73.7 cm (26 in. x 40 1/2 in. x 29 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II in honor of Caroline Baumann; 2013-37-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497673/ |title=Braniff Airways Model 66310 Armchair, ca. 1968 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=21 January 2018 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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