An icon of any form is a character who defines a culture. The collective work of many Scandinavian mid century designers, such as Arne Jacobsen, were responsible for creating thousands of symbols, that we all recognise as iconic pieces of 60’s pop culture.
An understanding of artistic movements and it’s previous cultural limitations, allows for an insight into the leap these modernists made in a short space of time. Modernist design is connected to the age of ‘machination’ which opened up new possibilities and is typically referred to as anything, just before and up to the end of the 20th Century.
The 20th century is notoriously difficult to define, in part because it overlapped with so many major 'isms' within the so called modernist period. Modernism, Post modernism, Minimalism, post minimalism and within that more ‘isms’ such as Symbolism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism - it goes on. Like any movement in history, they are all suggestive and reactive of each other and therefore all interconnected.
However, the collective ideas of the Modernist era went on to shape all disciplines and artistic fields as we know it. The core concept behind the changing modernist ideals were an irony concerning previous social and cultural trends, explicitly traditional religious ideologies, as well as the past bourgeois social order and their ‘world view’. Modernism carried an overall stress on the freedom of expression, experimentation and radicalism. The 60’s was a period of very mixed cultural and political trends. ‘Pop’ culture was the boom of these collective ideals influenced heavy by the new use of mass media.
20th century design after the second industrial revolution, was now able to be mass produced, in a way that inspired a new generation of creative thinking. This period allowed for heavy experimentation with contemporary materials and technique. The power and interest in machines forced artists to strategically re-think their practice. The machine itself became a theme at the core of modernist design. Artists and designers were enlightened. Simplification of eccentricity and ornament, opened up a philosophy based around ‘functionalism’ that was wrapped around an entire industry.
Modernist ideas pervaded every form of design from graphics to architecture and was a key influence in art, literature and music. As a result, influential designers of this period formed in the masses, making themselves known as groups and collectives that started cultural movements and global institutions. Icons such as Walter Gropius who formed the Bauhaus to the modern architect Le Corbusier, were fascinated by the new multi dynamic disciplines of design which was greatly reflected in their work.
Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair is a classic testament to mid century modernist philosophies. Arne Jacobsen was not only one of Denmark’s most influential designers, but a pioneer of modern design around the world. Jacobsen’s beautifully sculpted Egg Chair made in 1958 for the lobby and reception areas of Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen quickly became a radical triumph and could just be the most recognisable chair of our times.This booming generation of ideas and possibilities allowed for a partnerships that moved artist and designers in the early 20th century into leaders of modernist design, whose work evolved in time for the blossoming of the 60s. The Egg, Ball and Pod chairs are 60’s psychedelia icons, that has endured popular culture over the past century. Hollywood films played an important role in making these chairs so iconic.
The Egg Chair has featured in a huge amount of archetypal films such as: A Space Odyssey, Austin Powers, Men In Black, Zoolander and Lucky Number Slevin, as well as music videos for legend artists such as The Beatles.
Eero Aarnio’s Egg Pod Chair is still a staggeringly popular design nearly fifty years later. He continues to be delighting people across the globe and has been doing so since the 60’s. Aarnio’s mathematical way of thinking were used to anticipate the shape of the human structure and incorporate it into his design. Both these designers and these chairs echo the art and spirit of the ultra modern thinking in the 60’s.
Pop culture in the mid to late 20th century was a build up of philosophies by the entire western modernist era. Ideas, perspectives, attitudes and ideologies exploded and were shared in the mainstream, which reached far deeper than thoughts in design. Egg chairs represented a modernist way of thinking and a new widely accepted controversial eccentricity. They are design symbols of innovation and how innovation transcends time.