Today we are discussing George Nelson, an architect and designer who has been widely recognized for his furniture designs. He has undertaken a position of a design director at Hermann Miller’s furniture company where he produced many of his signature furniture designs. Other than an architect and a designer, George Nelson was also a teacher, a writer and a curator. He travelled around Europe where he has written some of his articles. While there, he also spoke to many influential people associated with Modernist movement.

George Nelson wrote books on the subject of design. Titles of his books are as follows Problems of Design (1974), How to See (1977), George Nelson on Design (1979). In his book titled How to See (1977), Nelson explains his views describing the skill of looking as a possible to learn separate subject. He believed looking/or seeing to be a discipline to be taught on its own, next to writing for instance. Nelson also believed that in contemporary world there are many people who are incapable of looking. His idea to teach people to look could be seen as influential and relevant to contemporary designers hence the book could be seen as relevant today. Looking or seeing is an important skill for a designer whether you agree with Nelsons views on it or not. This book is an interesting read also because of it being written in the 1970's. The book gives us some insight into influences of Modernist philosophy onto the design.

Coming back to modular 1950's, industrial pre-made modules, which could be easily rearranged by a client in order to assemble product were of interest to Nelson. He believed in quicker solutions and modular technologies in both, his buildings as well as his furniture designs. 

When Nelson produced series of office furniture, Nelson Workspaces, he used the idea of modules.  His Workspaces included different types of modules/designs which could be bought separately and mixed and matched together to produce an office workstation you need.

When it comes to an example of his modular building, in 1950’s, Nelson created architectural model of Experimental House. The idea behind this project was prefabrication of modules in order to enable quick installation and transportation. The design of Experimental House was cubical. Separate cube shaped modules connected/and/or separated with partition walls, which could be rearranged to meet client’s idea. The house could become as large or as small as client desired. The variety of potential layout options given by different arrangements of Experimental House unit modules was vast. Mass production of a house like this could potentially be done on a large scale, giving freedom of layout choice to each client. This leading to clients creating their own dream home by arranging how they desire the house to look like. There would also be the option of transporting the house from one location to another if needed and/or expanding the house easily if needed.

Nelson’s Experimental House was never actually built in reality. Nelson worked on this project through 1950’s extensively and created a model of Experimental House. This architectural design was innovative and influential at the time. It shows interest and belief into modular solutions by the architects of early twentieth century already.

George Nelson is an inspiring example of an architect and designer who played part in history of modular solutions and whose work was and still is an innovative and inspiring example to look up to.



Featured image is not of one of George Nelson designs.