Wood has been the most important raw material throughout the human history. Along with stone, wood is the first material used by our ancestors and is still the material of choice for cutting-edge designers today. Its virtues –warm, resistant, environmentally-friendly, easy to handle, a variety of finishes– are unquestionable and therefore the history of design has left us with a series of icons made of wood, pieces of furniture that marked an era and retain their value despite the passing years. Here we take a look at three especially unique pieces designed in very different styles.
Palau Güell dresser (Antoni Gaudí, 1888)
This original piece of furniture is not his most famous work, but Gaudí’s genius had a critical impact on design history and we had to include him here. Most of Gaudí’s work was architectural, but he left some examples of furniture which took shape from his imagination, pieces that allow us to appreciate the importance he placed on this work. Specifically, this dresser is an extraordinarily asymmetrical and modern piece which also fit the owner’s needs like a glove. In short, criteria of functionality, rationality, comfort and strength dominated Gaudí’s work.
Stool 60 + Chair 69 + Table 90 (Alvar Aalto, 1932)
In contrast to the sumptuous decoration of the Palau Güell, a little over 40 years later the Finnish designer Aalto created a line of Scandinavian style furniture characterised by rationalism and organicism. Far from the cold and mechanised aesthetic, Aalto studied the flexibility of plywood for the warmth it brought his projects. The stool 60 –and later the table 90 and the chair 69– evidence the designer’s interest in basic forms. Made from birch wood, they represent quintessential functional furniture design.
Carlton bookcase (Ettore Sottsass, 1981)
We now take a leap to the 1980s, to the time of Sottsass, a unique character who was also one of the most influential artists of the last century. As an industrial designer he created far from conventional pieces, often in cooperation with other members of the Memphis group. Conceived as a room divider to create different environments in the same space, the Carlton bookcase is an outstanding example of Sottsass’ style. Designed for an upscale market, instead of fine woods he used laminated boards in bright colours to create a playful piece reminiscent of avant-garde painting and sculpture.