David Adjaye makes furniture debut with Knoll

The award-winning architect says the process forced him to rethink product design
David Adjaye beside his Skeleton chair from his Washington collection for Knoll
David Adjaye beside his Skeleton chair from his Washington collection for Knoll

Knoll, the American furniture manufacturer, knows a classic when it sees one. The firm holds the reproduction rights to the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer and commissioned Eero Saarinen to design the famous Tulip chair. So, when it came to marking its 75th birthday, Knoll approached the Afro-English architect David Adjaye, to produce a collection.


David Adjaye's drafts for Knoll
David Adjaye's drafts for Knoll

Adjaye, then completing the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC, demurred. Yet, Knoll were insistent, and eventually talked the architect into coming up with two cantilevered side chairs, a club chair, an ottoman, a side table and a coffee table.


The Skeleton Chair by David Adjaye for Knoll
The Skeleton Chair by David Adjaye for Knoll

The collection, called Washington, will be available from next month, and, on an initial examination, it looks as if Knoll have hit on another classic. Ada tells Coolhunting.com that his move into furniture was a novel one, and one that changed his views on product design. “Architecture is specific to a location. You know where it is and what it is doing,” he explains, “but furniture can be anywhere and used by everyone. There’s something very powerful about it."

He describes his sinewy, cast aluminium, copper-coated Skeleton chair as “a drawing of the force pattern that’s required to brace this shape to make it a chair,” adding, “in a way it’s an exoskeleton or an armature.”



This is complemented with a nylon version of the Skeleton chair, a polished bronze coffee table, and other items. They’re available from next month online and at the Knoll Home Design Shop in midtown Manhattan. Perhaps it’s time to pick up a future classic. To find out more, go here. To learn more about the how great design informs seating furniture, take a look at our Taxonomy of Office Chairs and for a compact history of product design, consider our Design Book, which squeezes centuries of production creativity into 500 examples of iconic design.

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