Alexander Girard was one of the most prolific interior architects of the twentieth century, one who expressed his enthusiasm for design through his vibrant use of color. Believing that modernism did not equate with the use of drab colors, he incorporated bright hues and bold geometric patterns into his designs. He developed an exciting fabric line for Herman Miller and quickly became his own best client:

“The simple geometric patterns and brilliant primary color ranges came to be because of my own urgent need for them on current projects. As you will remember, primary colors were frowned upon in those days; so were geometric patterns. I had the notion then, and still do, that any form of representational pattern, when used on folded or draped fabric, became disturbingly distorted, and that, therefore, a geometric pattern was more appropriate for a draped fabric.”[1]

Apart from creating designs for Herman Miller and John Deere, Girard won the commission to completely redesign Braniff International Airways’ visual identity in the mid-1960s. The collaboration marked “the end of the plain plane” as Girard made over 17,500 design changes, ranging from Braniff’s logo to the design of the airport lounges. The airline company even commissioned the creative pattern designer Emilio Pucci for their new crew uniform.[2]

The Braniff Airways Model 66310 armchair was designed to have a low profile to accommodate the low-ceilinged spaces found in Braniff airport lounges. The curved silhouette of the chair feels aerodynamic, possibly suggest the speed and efficiency of the Braniff fleet. Girard’s bright use of color in the upholstered seat and back is juxtaposed against the horizontal striped seat cushion, all anchored by the aluminum frame. The armchair is a great example of Alexander Girard’s design aesthetic and his exceptional skill of incorporating playfulness into everyday life, even in the most mundane settings.

 

Roshy Vultaggio is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Fellow in the museum’s Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.

 

[1] Jack Lenor Larsen, “Alexander Girard,” Design Quarterly, No. 98/99., Nelson, Eames, Girard, Propst: The Design Process at Herman Miller (1975): 31.

[2] “Front Matter.” American Bar Association Journal 52, no. 9 (1966): 801.

Bibliography

“Front Matter.” American Bar Association Journal 52, no. 9 (1966): 801.Jack Lenor Larsen. “Alexander Girard.” Design Quarterly, no. 98/99 (1975): 30-39.

 

The Braniff Airways Model 66310 armchair is on display in Energizing the Everyday: Gifts from the George R. Kravis II Collection, on view from April 27, 2016 through March 12, 2017.

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