“functional and utilitarian without neglecting the aesthetics,” 1949

After all my talk about those Aalto tables in the library, I finally have something to say about a chair.

The other day I was looking in the file drawer called “Miscellaneous” where I found this:

It was the only thing in a folder labeled “Library Furniture” and I have to admit that this is legitimately miscellaneous. It’s hard to know where to start with a picture like this, which is almost a visual non sequitur. But on the back it says it was a gift of Miss Pender Turnbull, and that means it’s probably worth thinking about.

And sure enough, a bit of digging reveals something interesting. This photo was taken in the Music and Fine Arts Room of the brand new Fondren Library, probably just as the building was opening in 1949. Librarian William Dix talks about the furnishing of this room on the third page of this 1949 Library Journal article, noting it was meant to be an informal lounge, and in the top photo on the next page you can see two of these chairs:

As for the chair itself, like the Aalto tables it was made by a mid-century Finnish architect and designer, not Aalto this time but Eero Saarinen, who designed this chair–called the Grasshopper–in 1946. Once again I am deeply impressed by the sophisticated vision of Bill Dix and even after all this time a tiny bit surprised that the Rice administration went along with it.

Bonus: Here’s a 1963 article about Miss Turnbull. I share her zeal and hold her in the highest regard.

Extra Bonus:


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2 Responses to “functional and utilitarian without neglecting the aesthetics,” 1949

  1. grungy1973 says:

    And within that Library Journal article, an answer to the question about the jalousie windows seen in your post with the picture of the back of Fondren – air conditioned from day one.

  2. lowman2013 says:

    Love this article, Melissa! We still have a lot of iconic furniture from the early days of the Fondren Library.

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