Posts Tagged ‘shagadelic’

Whatever happened to the seating platform, the conversation pit?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Modern Seating Platform

Above, the 1970s modern two-level platform in painter Frank Stella’s loft, from the classic book Inside Today’s Home. Below, a recent photo of the renovated 1950s conversation pit in the Number 31 Hotel in Dublin.

conversation pit

Maybe it’s because I grew up around a hip artist aunt whose 60s/70s handmade house had a seating platform in it, but I am mourning the disappearance of the freeform seating arrangement. And apparently I am not alone. The seating platform and conversation pit of the postwar period (sort of the inverse of each other but amounting to the same thing, mood-wise) probably have their origins in the interior design of the Middle East or North Africa. Over time this form spread to regions within that sphere of influence, such as Greece, Turkey and Spain. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, conversation pits and raised seating areas looked variously Eastern, hippie, shagadelic, or modernist, but the effect was the same. Obviously architectural design influences mood and behaviour, and these seating styles do inherently invite a completely different form of socializing. And a different quantity of it. As a kid at my aunt’s I would spend all day on her padded window seat platform, which was large enough for about 6 people (maybe 4 stretched out) and which was covered with a huge, natural pale brown Greek flokati and pillows, far more comfortable than any couch or chair. Now when I visit her we still invariably congregate there. Of the two styles I think I actually prefer the seating platform, because it allows you to be even more free-form and informal than most sunken pits, and because it’s cheaper to build. Below, seating platform/window seat in British Columbia; further below, seating platform in the Standard Hotel in LA, by ChimayBleue on Flickr.

At the lake

The Standard Hotel Downtown LA

Miller House, Columbus, IN, designed by Eero Saarinen, 1957

miller house by saarinen, photo by ezra stoller

Saarinen's Miller House, 1957, via High Steel Heels on Flickr

Above, three photos of perhaps the most famous modern conversation pit of all: it’s in Eero Saarinen’s Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, built in 1957. The top two photos are recent; the last photo is how it originally looked.

Edersheim Apartment by Paul Rudolph, 1970

Above, the Edersheim apartment by architect Paul Rudolph, 1970. Most Paul Rudolph houses featured a conversation pit or equivalent seating arrangement. Below is a related but sort of rustic space age option: suspended sitting and sleeping pods in architect Bruce Goff‘s experimental Bavinger House (1950-55; photo by Lizzy Brooks is from here). Below that is another Bruce Goff building, the Nicol House of 1965, photo by Robert McLaughlin.

Bavinger House by architect Bruce Goff

Bruce Goff's Nicol House, by Robert McLaughlin

teen conversation pit

Teen conversation pit, above; below, the early 70s living/dining room of sculptor Sydney Butche—it appeared in House Beautiful in 1972.

Seating platform, house of sculptor Sydney Butche

Below, some historical precedents:

Estrado, from the Museo Casa Cervantes

The seating area above, an “estrado,” is from Cervantes’ 16th C house, now the Museo Casa Cervantes:

Estrado is the name given to the reception room which is characteristically taken up in part by the a dais ( the estrado itself) covered with rugs where normally the women sat in Moorish fashion on cushions following the Spanish custom of Islamic origin which foreign visitors found very surprising although it in Spain it survived practically until the Bourbon era.

There are numerous testimonies to the use of the estrado, both in literature and in painting in Spain and in the inventories which document household contents. It was normally the most richly decorated room in the house and the one used for receiving visitors .

Topkapi Harem - Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince

Above, the Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince (Çifte Kasırlar / Veliahd Dairesi), via onethirteen. Below, the low seating platform (at right) on Crete is typical of many traditional Greek houses, though some of them are more comfortably padded than this one.

Postcard - House in Rhodes

If building code (or cost) prohibits conversation pits and sunken living rooms, then raised seating platforms are a great cheap substitute – for that matter, make a raise platform with a recessed area within it. If you have an appetite for more images, see here and here, and there are more photos below. And if you’ve ever made one of these, man I’d like to see it.

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Circa 1968

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Fantastic, minus the zebra, even if it's the same zebra they have in the Eames House.

More far out interiors from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press, 1970.

White bas relief wall hanging, skylit dining area

Macrame lamp/hanging thing - if anyone has this exact object, I'll buy it

Panton lamp in swanky interior

Wow.

Robot flower power

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Armchair  ----- PAR_DSCN1458

70s space age armchair, via backgarage, origin and name unknown. Does anyone know who or what made this? Does it actually bounce on that spring? Imagine eating breakfast in this chair. After dialing it up from the replicator console. Every house needs a chair children will fight over.

More Furniture in 24 Hours – 4 pieces

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Sculptural Seating by Gigi Hernaez

A final post on great DIY furniture from Spiros Zakas’ 1979 “More Furniture in 24 Hours” book. If you want the building plans for any of  these pieces, go to this Flickr set. The plans for the long bench chair at top, “Sculptural Seating by Gigi Hernaez”, are at the bottom of this post—click below or see Flickr. It’s almost reminiscent of Carlo Bugatti’s famous folding chair of nearly 100 years earlier. The next 3 pieces are the Laplander Chair by Mark Nøre, the S.O.S. Night Table by George Thomopoulos, and Folding Screen by Mark Nøre. Click on the photos to go to my Flickr. If you still haven’t had enough, there are lots of second-hand copies of the book at abebooks! Please, if anyone makes any of these designs, can you possibly send me photos and tell me how it went?

Laplander Chair by Mark Nøre, CU

SOS Night Table by George Thomopoulos

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More Furniture in 24 Hours, part 1 – Space Bench

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

More Furniture in 24 hours by Spiros Zakas, 1979, cover

Some of these designs are actually pretty good. I’ll post some more if anyone wants them! I don’t know if that’s Spiros on the cover there, sitting on this Space Bench, or if it’s George Thomopolos, but whoever he is, he’s… groovy. It’s 1979 and they’re in New York City and apparently they’re going to build some interesting furniture in 4 hours. The $19 price tag definitely needs updating. It’s probably more like US$40-80—more if you use eco-plywood—and that’s not including paint or stain. There’s clearly a Gerrit Rietveld influence throughout the book, which considering the materials is to the furniture’s advantage. Click below to find page 2 of the plans for building this bench or go to my Flickr set for high res versions. I don’t know where my design partner Sarah found this book, but it’s fantastic.

Furniture in 24 hours by Spiros Zakas

Furniture in 24 hours by Spiros Zakas

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