George Nelson: Local Connection, Personal Recollection

On Oct. 12, members of Design West Michigan and Kendall College of Art and Design students and faculty boarded a bus for a trip to Bloomfield Hills and the Cranbrook Academy of Art to see the George Nelson Exhibit.

Herman Miller’s former design director, George Nelson, created some of the most iconic, modernist furniture of the 20th century. Nelson was responsible for the production of a number of furnishings and interior designs that became modern classics, including the Coconut Chair (1956), the Marshmallow Sofa (1956), the Ball Clock (1947) and the Bubble Lamps (1952 onwards). Organized by the Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition is the first comprehensive retrospective of Nelson’s work.

More than 120 three-dimensional objects including examples of chairs, benches, desks, cabinets, lamps, and clocks, as well as drawings, photographs, architectural models, and films, form the core of the exhibition.

Our tour began with an auditorium presentation by Design West Michigan Director John Berry. Berry has over 35 years of professional design involvement including global manufacturers, international architectural and design firms, foundations and board positions on art & design schools and professional organizations. Berry met Nelson on his second day of work in 1980 in corporate communications at Herman Miller.

The Cranbrook visit also included lunch at the Cranbrook Boys Academy Dining Hall, built in 1927, a brief tour of Milles House; designed by Eero Saarinen for the sculptor Carl Milles, and a tour of Cranbrook’s exhibit, “Vision and Interpretation: Building Cranbrook, 1904-2012.”

The last stop was a special tour of Cranbrook’s new Collections Wing, where Gregory Wittkopp, Cranbrook Art Museum Director presented the incredible collection of mid-century modern furniture.

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