Zigzag

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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The Zigzag chair was designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, a Dutch architect and designer who was most prolific during the first quarter of the 20th century. Rietveld, though not necessarily a household name in modern furniture (like Mies van der Rohe or Breuer may be) was an early contributor to the look of many of the designs that would become Modernist classics. His strict aesthetic and insistence on producible furniture designs, epitomized in the Red and Blue chair and the Zigzag chair, helped lay the foundation for many industrial design strategies that would follow.

Rietveld's Red and Blue and Zigzag Chairs

The first of Rietveld's designs to see production was the Red and Blue chair, which was designed in 1918. The chair wasn't exhibited until 1923; in the meantime, Rietveld joined the Dutch avant-garde movement De Stijl, which would help him solidify many of his formal ideas and theories about accessibility and production. Over the next 16 years or so, Rietveld would continue to experiment with minimal, planar furniture forms and materials such as plywood and fiberboard.

The Zigzag chair came in 1934, and represents modern chair design at the most extremely simplified level. Constructed of a single type of wood (ash or plywood, usually), the chair consists of three panels that are roughly similar in size and joined at the ends to produce a pronounced and recognizable "Z" shape. A fourth panel rises from the back of the seat (the top of the Z) to provide a back for the chair.

The Zigzag chair is both aesthetically and functionally formidable. The stark silhouette and unity in materials gives the chair a form that is at once dynamic and stable. The diagonals and planes seem to hold true to the De Stijl roots of Rietveld, cutting through negative space to produce engaging lines and contrast between positive and negative space.


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