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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was born in Italy. In 1930, he traveled to Detroit to visit his brother. Instead of returning home as he had planned, he remained in Michigan and enrolled in a technical high school for artistically gifted students. Eventually, he earned a scholarship to the Cranbrook Academy to study drawing and painting. After two years at Cranbrook, Bertoia was asked to direct the metal craft department and reorganize the metal shop, soon making metalcraft a popular program. Upon graduating in 1939, Eliel Saarinen, then director of the academy, invited Bertoia to join the faculty. Bertoia remained at Cranbrook until 1943.

Bertoia then moved to California to work with Charles and Ray Eames at the Evans Products Company, where Charles Eames worked as Director of Research and Development. There, they experimented with molded plywood technology in the service of the war effort. After Eames began to implement Bertoia's innovations without crediting him, Bertoia left.

In 1950, Bertoia received an invitation from Hans and Florence Knoll to work as a designer for their well-known firm. Bertoia and his family relocated to Pennsylvania. By 1952, Bertoia had designed the famous "Diamond" seating collection, which included a lounge chair, stool, side chair, and a small chair for children. Constructed of industrial metal wire, the chair is remarkably strong despite its delicate appearance. Prized equally as a work of sculpture, it is still in production today and remains an icon of 20th century design.

Until his death in 1978, Bertoia was mainly active as a sculptor. Many of his sculptures are designed to move in the wind, some even to create sounds. He completed over 50 public sculptures in his lifetime, most notably for the chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. He was awarded the 1955 Fine Arts Medal, the 1956 AIA Craftsmanship Award, the 1968 Critics Award, and the 1973 AIA Gold Medal.

From and

Large diamond lounge chairs

Upholstered diamond chairs

Slat bench

Bar stools
Dining chairs

Dandelion sculpture


  1. One of my favorites! I love Harry Bertoia designs, especially the armless dining chairs.

  2. @Rhan Vintage: I'd love to have a pair of the upholstered diamond chairs.