Design Exhibits

Midcentury Design Exhibits at Nordic Heritage and BAM

Two pioneering designers, two separate shows, one revolutionary era of design that’s definitely still loved and appreciated in the Northwest.

By Heather Fink January 10, 2012


Where: Nordic Heritage Museum and The Bellevue Arts Museum

What: Midcentury design. The world is enjoying a love affair with the era’s iconic shapes, and this month Seattle has two opportunities to delve into the lives and work of important figures in modernist architecture and interior design.

George Nelson was an American modernist designer of furniture. He was the director of design for Herman Miller, and is considered to be one of the founders of American modernism. His work is on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum. The show there encompasses several rooms and many notable pieces of furniture that have become synonymous with midcentury interiors—for example, the coconut chair and the bubble hanging lamp. No, you can’t test any of the furniture for comfort, but for those who might like to understand the roots of many currently used (and reused) design concepts, it’s a show worth seeing.

Josef Frank was an Austrian-born Swedish designer; he is currently featured at Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum. A renaissance man of sorts—an artist, architect, and designer— Frank was responsible for iconic brightly colored floral patterns and other designs which have been turned into textiles, and then into chairs, carpet, and other pieces. You will see some of this at the museum, but what you won’t see is Frank’s more conceptual contribution to architecture. Together with Oskar Strnad he created the Vienna School for Architecture, where innovations in modern housing and design were daily business. Wondering why he’s called a Swedish designer, but is Austrian-born? Frank adopted Swedish citizenship later in life. Perhaps he had an inkling of the cache that would eventually be carried by Swedish designers.

When: Josef Frank at the Nordic Heritage Museum: Now through February 19 and George Nelson at the Bellevue Arts Museum: Now through February 12 (Hint: There’s free parking in the garage next to the museum.)

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