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|Henry P. Glass (1911-2003)|
One of the most ingenious inventors and product designers of the twentieth century, Henry Glass often drove his shiny new Volkswagon Beetle from his home in suburban Chicago to appointments with manufacturers in the Loop. He designed the forerunner to his beetle he had in his nineties nearly seventy years earlier, in 1934.
He earned his masters degree at the Architectural College of Vienna, coming to New York in 1939 to eventually work with Gilbert Rohde and Russel Wright. Settling in Chicago in the 1940s, he began his own practice with a design for a block square advertising art studio downtown, followed by hotels in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
His designs for furniture, appliances, showroom exhibits, industrial equipment, housewares, modular building systems, hotels and office buildings alone would guarantee any other commercial designer a permanent place in the industrial arts hall of fame. But Henry Glass is not just any other commercial designer. Never satisfied until he had exploited every molecule of his materials, his results were amazingly farsighted.
In the nineteen forties, his fascination with the lowly hair-pin led to the manufacture of narrow rods of steel into suites of outdoor tables and chairs. Ten years later, he reinvented them to fold totally flat. The properties of plywood inspired him to create a futuristic tree house, Hawaiian vacation shelters and one-piece tables and chairs. His 1957 design for the "Omega" reclining chair married aeronautical engineering to simple belt driven mechanics so that the armrests alone lifted the ottoman. His 1979 'Cricket' outdoor chair for Brown Jordan folded down to a thickness of one inch.
Part science fiction, part class project, his modular systems for housing, sitting, sleeping and dining have inspired countless ideas for clients that stretched the capabilities of the manufacturers to new boundaries of industry.
The Art Institute of Chicago mounted an important exhibition of his work in 2000, acquiring for their permanent collection his student drawings and seminal pieces of his furniture. When asked to exhibit a collection of his designs for 'The Perfect Chair' at ArchiTech, he responded by designing a new one that came to him in a dream. Weeks later, he offered yet another version, this one stackable. The perfect chair for Henry Glass was always the next one he designed.
|Link to Henry P. Glass's Obituary from the Chicago Tribune|
|Link to The Work of Henry Glass - Mid-Century Modernist|
|January 2004 Henry Glass' lovely design world on view by Jenn Q. Goddu, Chicago Tribune|
|Link to The Perfect Chair|
730 North Franklin suite 200
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