The Cross Check Chair is named after a hockey infraction in which a player holds their stick vertically and blocks another player, illegally checking them. The name is also a reference to the seat of this chair, which is made out of interwoven maple plywood strips, creating a check pattern, and a double meaning of the word “check.” The chair is one of a collection of five pieces, all named after hockey terms that are used as visual puns in the structures of the chairs, such as in the High Sticking Chair, a high-backed chair that looks as if it is made out of hockey sticks. The combination of maple wood and hockey makes this chair an homage to Canada, the birthplace of designer Frank O. Gehry, whose favorite sport is hockey, of course.
This chair was part of the Gehry Collection by Knoll, Inc., all of which are named after hockey terms. Gehry started working on the collection in 1989 when Knoll approached him about designing furniture for the company. Knoll allowed Gehry his own workshop where he experimented with the materials, trying to reinvent the chair. The interwoven maple strips were inspired by the apple crates that Gehry played on as a child. The chairs are designed in a way only an architect would make them: the variation in the chairs is created by their structures, rather than from any sort of applied decoration.
Though the Gehry Collection was originally produced from 1992-1994, it plays into current trends as well. The white maple used for the chair was harvested in a way that made it environmentally sustainable. And while hockey has always been popular in Canada, it has become increasingly popular in the United States over the last few years. This may be due to the United States’ success at the Olympics, starting in 2010, where the men’s team won a silver medal. This chair was forward looking in its combination of sustainability and hockey.
Audrey Sutton is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.