A major technical
Outdoor Seating Comes In
An Industrialist Who Loved Modern Design
Industrialist J. Irwin Miller was born in the small town of Columbus, Indiana, in 1909. A civic-minded man, he set up the Cummins Foundation in 1954 and offered his home town a deal: The Foundation would pay architect fees for new public buildings and would choose the architects. As a result, this town of about 40,000 has buildings by the giants of mid-century modern design—Eero and Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Kevin Roche, and Richard Meier, among others. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects declared the small town the sixth most important in the country in terms of architecture.
Outdoor Seating Moves Indoors
We began making the Aluminum Group chairs for indoor use in 1958, and they have been in continuous production ever since. We dropped the original mesh in favor of fabric, vinyl, and leather, ribbed at 1 7/8-inch intervals for a clean, refined appearance.
Over the years, some efforts we made to improve quality came at the expense of craft. We chose a standard leather that wore better and faded less than the original aniline leather, and in doing so we surrendered some of the soft hand of the original leather.
Now we are restoring the balance—and letting you make the choice. The new premium leather provides much of the soft hand of the original, along with durability and color-fastness.
Archival photos courtesy of Eames Office LLC
A Challenge to the Eames Team
Among the buildings Eero Saarinen designed in Columbus was Miller's home. Saarinen wanted high-quality seating for outdoor use and asked Charles and Ray Eames to develop it. They constructed their chairs with cast aluminum and a seat frame that would support a stretched synthetic mesh. The seat-back suspension was a major technical achievement and a departure from the concept of the chair as a solid shell.