After the first ‘People in Design’ biography about Finn Juhl and The Beginning of the Danish Modern Design, today I want to share what I learnt about another protagonist of the Mid-Century design: George Nelson
George Nelson dominated the Mid-Century Modern design and architecture scene since its early years.
Although he is considered to be amongst the most influential designers of the twentieth Century, he never was a ‘traditional’ designer.
Despite this, Nelson and his office invented some of the most iconic furniture and home appliances of the Mid-Century Modern time like the Storagewall, the multimedia presentation, the open plan office system or the Bubble lamp, the Ball clock, the Marshmallow sofa and the Coconut Chair.
(pics via: S. Abercrombie – [amazon_link id="0262511169" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]George Nelson, The Design of Modern Design[/amazon_link])
He was an eclectic -architect, urban designer, interior designer, graphic designer- more interested in writing about architecture and travel than in the construction business.
Nelson was born in 1908 in an highly educated family. When discussing his own origins, he used to say: “There was none around who said ‘Go out and get rich’, so I followed their instructions and never did”.
It is no surprise then if he became a curious traveller with no concern in making money.
In 1924, Nelson joined Yale University without having a clear idea of what to study, but one day, finding shelter in the university from a sudden storm, he found himself in the faculty of architecture.
There, a student presentation of tempera and watercolor renderings called ‘A Cemetery Gateway’ was taking place.
He was so amazed of what he had just seen that he decided with no hesitation that he would become an architect: “They were the most exquisitely beautiful and exciting things I had ever seen in my life. I fell in love instantly with the whole business of creating designs for cemetery gateways. This was when, without any further question on my part, I decided I had to be an architect.”
After the graduation in 1928 -one year before the economic crash that canceled every construction plan around the country making the architects useless- Nelson started the academic career to get bored of it already one year later.
In 1929 he ran for, and won, the contest ‘Rome Prize’; the prize consisted of two years at the American Academy in Rome with all the expenses covered, the ideal solution to the lack of work during those years.
The following years Nelson traveled throughout Europe writing about architecture and interviewing the leading designers and architects of the time like Le Corbusier, Mies Van de Roe, Walter Gropius and Gio Ponti. The interviews, published in the US between the ‘35 and ‘36, showed his peculiar, admiring and often sarcastic point of view on the European architecture, the Bauhaus revolution and its protagonists.
Those years outlined the first phase of his career as a writer.
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