Celebrating Harry Bertoia @ Salone Milan 2015

Celebrating Harry Bertoia @ Salone Milan 2015

knoll bertoia

For Salone 2015, Knoll has once again collaborated with OMA, the studio co-founded by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and “Inside Outside” founder Petra Blaisse, to design its display, “This is Knoll,” as well as to create its showroom display at the Piazza Bertarelli.

knoll harry bertoia piazza bertarelli milan (1)

The Piazza Bertarelli presentation celebrates the centennial of the birth of Harry Bertoia with a probing gaze from one of the most interesting and highly acclaimed studios on today’s architecture scene; it is a true in-depth exploration of this eclectic designer—through all his art forms, from sculpture to jewellery and from monoprints to the master’s celebrated Knoll furniture products.

Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia

As a tribute and as a way of renewing its own history, this year Knoll celebrates the centennial of the birth of Harry Bertoia ( 1915 – 1978 )

The celebration of the centennial is not just an opportunity to pay homage to a great artist but also and above all a chance to discover the versatile character of his work. An eclectic designer, he ranged from drawings to sculptures, jewelry engraving to music, with his “sound sculptures.”

Different disciplines, approached with a spirit of experimentation in techniques and constructive methods, with a personal vision of art as work that can be industrially produced, in the spirit of the technologies of the time, and therefore inseparable from the approach and goals of design.

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (2)

The celebration of the Harry Bertoia centennial is not just a chance for a tribute to this great artist; above all, it is an opportunity to discover the versatile depth of his output.

An eclectic personality, he shifted from drawing to sculpture, engraving of jewelry to music, even creating ‘sound sculptures’.

Different disciplines approached with a spirit of experimentation, exploring constructive techniques and methods.

And a personal vision of art as work to be reproduced on an industrial scale, based on the technologies of the time and therefore inseparable, in approach and aims, from design.

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (3)

knoll piazza bertarelli milan

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (1)

no V.I.P red carpet entrance for Rem Koolhaas – he queued up and walks in, through the same door as everyone else !!

Florence and Hans Knoll, in close collaboration with the artist, thus created a seating collection “inspired by an inner source” with the right balance between art and industry, function and aesthetics.

The exhibition design by OMA, the studio cofounded by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, interprets the various works from Harry Bertoia‘s vast output, which inspired by nature explores space and interprets its functioning and material qualities.bertoia floor plan

The pink floor markings ( in the plan below ) represent the shapes of Harry’s massive tonal gongs which he designed, made and used to record music ( sonambients )

These large Linoleum flooring forms are replica shapes of Harry’s forged gongs, and are directly based on the Monotype series of drawings by Bertoia, are used to indicate the different sections of the show.

The chairs represented atop the gongs comprise various models from the famous Bertoia chair collection for Knoll

knoll harry bertoia piazza bertarelli milan (4)

Areas are set aside for reading, video and audio narrate his life and works, combining a retrospective of archival films and recordings with more contemporary analysis and reinterpretation of his iconic design.

His jewellery, another art form he explored, again underlines the wide range of materials used by Bertoia, always in pursuit of new interpretations of what is offered by nature.

knoll harry bertoia piazza bertarelli milan (3)

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (10)

Everything is enhanced by materials never before exhibited from the personal collection of Celia Bertoia, the designer’s daughter. An important nucleus of the exhibition is 30 monotypes, refined, rare prints on paper, made as one-offs from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

These works offer the opportunity to explore an original but seldom examined part of Bertoia’s output, shedding light on that various influences, also from Europe, that converge in his art, where he was never fully satisfied by the results achieved.

The monotypes on display, juxtaposed with sculptures and the Diamond Chairs, make it possible to grasp the many references and interactions between the various expressive forms employed by Bertoia.

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (9)

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (5)

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (7)

A large portion of the exhibition focuses on the design of the famous Diamond chair, which Bertoia called “a real sculpture made of air and steel,” which plays with the contrast between strength and light lines.

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (6)

bertoia collection

knoll piazza barterelli milan salon  (8)

The connection between Hans Knoll and Harry Bertoia began at the Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit.

At that same school, Arieto (‘Harry’, from Friuli, who moved to the US in 1930) met Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames and Alvar Aalto, and took part in the creation of the exhibition “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” in 1941, a sort of manifesto of the American modernist vision.


The group of designers experimented with the most innovative materials and techniques of the day, such as pressed and shaped plywood, or metal wire used in structural applications.

This led to the idea behind Bertoia’s most famous creation, the Diamond Chair, which he called “a real sculpture made of air and steel”.

Between 1950 and 1952, the Knoll,s commissioned Bertoia to design a line of furnishings.

knoll harry bertoia piazza bertarelli milan (2)


benjamin pardo

Benjamin Pardo, Knoll’s Direcor of Design – being interviewed about Harry Bertoia and Knoll



bertoia in bally studio

We recommend you to check out dedece’s special profile on Harry Bertoia @ 100 by clicking here



About Knoll

knoll modern always

Knoll is recognized internationally for workplace and residential design that inspires, evolves and endures.

Our portfolio of furniture, textile, leather and accessories brands, including Knoll, KnollStudio, KnollTextiles, KnollExtra, Spinneybeck, FilzFelt, Edelman Leather, and HOLLY HUNT, reflects our commitment to modern design that meets the diverse requirements of high performance offices and luxury interiors.

A recipient of the National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement from the Smithsonian`s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Knoll is aligned with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Canadian Green Building Council and can help organizations achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED workplace certification.

Knoll is the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk program.

Modern furniture for modern architects.

This was the insight of Hans & Florence Knoll, who after World War II began to transform their family business, realizing that functional quality and design not only have to work together, but should also have equal importance.

The couple turned to great modern architects like Mies van der Rohe, from whom they purchased the production rights for the Barcelona armchair with footrest in 1948, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen, friends since the time at Cranbrook Academy of Art, entrusted in the 1950s with the development of a series of furnishings that would become milestones in the history of design.

Through collaboration with such outstanding talents, and major initiatives like the acquisition of Gruppo Gavina in 1968, the company consolidate its position on the international scene, and began production of furnishings by the likes of Marcel Breuer, Cini Boeri, Tobia Scarpa and Kazuhide Takahama.

Timeless products by the pioneers of modern design have been joined by contemporary perspectives, including recent creations by Rem Koolhaas and David Adjaye, after the work of Frank O. Gehry in the 1990s.

Since the outset under the management of Hans & Florence Knoll the company has moved forward with research on the office and the home, with the goal of interpreting the needs of those who use spaces, in keeping with cultural changes.

Growth and internationalization have always been part of the company’s DNA.

Already in 1951 Knoll had opened affiliates in France and Germany, to take part in the projects of European reconstruction; expansion on the old continent continued in 1956 with the opening of the first showroom in Milan.

Share your thoughts