The Chair Room at SFMOMA

We were in SF a few weeks ago and stopped by the sfmoma (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). The lobby itself was art, as is the case with lots of museums around the world. You don't actually have to go and see the exhibits to have an architecturally good time.
Similarly, the first time I went to the Getty in LA (the one on the hill, not the one on the water), I spent the whole day outside looking at the buildings, never once venturing inside to look at the art. And further similarly, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris I tended to ignore the art inside (OK, not really), but instead kept saying to myself, hey this used to be a train station!
So here at sfmoma, I said, hey that's a cool information desk!
And whoa, look up!

And alongside the left wall of the lobby was a bench! This bench:

Anyway, into the museum!
One of the first things encountered was The Chair Room. A room of 11 chairs arranged in circle. A room of 11 pieces of wood art that serve the additional purpose of supporting your behind. A room of 11 modern chairs from modern designers from around the world from the 1930's to the present. Here they are:
Gerrit Rietveld, Zig-zag chair, 1934

Alvar Aalto, Armchair, model 31, 1931-32

Charles and Ray Eames, LCW, 1945

Nathan Lerner, Chair in a Box chair, 1947

Ray Komai, Chair, model 939, 1949

J.B. Blunk, Invisible Presence, 1962

Marc Newsom, Wood chair, 1988

Fernando and Humberto Campana, Favela chair, 1991

Frank Gehry, Cross-check armchair, 1992

Mark Naden, Topos chair, 2003

Maarten Baas, Zig-zag chair (Rietveld), from Where There's Smoke, 2004

It's fascinating that the collection of chairs comes full circle (literally, with the arrangement of chairs on a circular platform), with the Rietveld chair sitting next to the Baas chair. They're almost exactly alike, only with Baas putting his burnt signature on his (again literally, a burned cherrywood chair).

Yeah, I could've come away from this being all inspired to do chairs. Particularly chairs as an homage to these, like some sort of plywood curvy piece in the style of that fabulous Topos chair, or even a melange of scraps type of chair like the Favela. But I ended up coming away from this thinking, I'm gonna make the bench in the lobby.

Yup, the third picture above. It turned out they had dozens (if not hundreds) of these benches throughout the facility, mostly for use while resting in front of a large painting/sculpture/installation.

And I said to myself, I'm gonna go home and make one of those. Right away. It's now in progress. Lots of gluing of lots of parts in multiple steps 'cause I have a finite number of clamps in the shop. A post detailing the finished bench will be posted soon. Since it's a pseudo-slatted bench, it'll be part of my ongoing Nelson series of benches.
So the moral of the story: the next time you're in your favorite museum, ignore the art. Check out the other stuff that's in the building. Oh yeah, and if this museum happens to be the sfmoma, check out the chair room.
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  1. I went to SFMOMA this weekend and fell in love with these benches (third from top) as well. And started searching to see who made these and stumble upon your blog post. Did you ever made this bench?


  2. Yes, I made a replica of that bench: