Introduced by Finnish furniture manufacturer Asko Oy in 1968, Eero Aarnio’s “Pastilli” rocking chair—sometimes called the “Gyro” or “Rock ‘N’ Roll” chair—epitomizes the turbulent, unconventional era of the late Sixties. The world at that time was changing dramatically, and Aarnio’s designs broke away from the square furniture shapes and mid-century curves of the previous decade to help re-define how people socialized and sat in their living spaces. His designs were both non-conformist and futuristic and were often used on sets for science fiction films. The “Rock ‘N’ Roll” chair was made of fiberglass-reinforced polyester and came in a variety of pop colors. This example in the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection is a bright lime green that is electric to the eye. The chair’s form is as compelling as the color, consisting of a flattened spherical shape with half the top part scooped out for the sitter.
While I have always been fascinated by the counter-culture of the 1960s and the dramatic political and social change that occurred during that time, I can appreciate this chair, not just for its innovative design, but for the pleasure of knowing what its like to sit in it. I grew up just a few miles from the Allentown Public library and in their children’s section were quite a few white, yellow, and orange “Rock ‘N’ Roll” chairs. I didn’t know anything about the design of these chairs at the time, or how they ended up there, but they were exciting and joyful to sit in and were so unlike the rigid upright chairs to which I was accustomed. Like a futuristic, plastic capsule that would rock and roll at every angle and easily spin on the carpet due to its rounded smooth base, this chair embodies its name in both form and function and allows its user to rebel like a 1960s rock star, even if they are stuck in a library.