Who beat out the Eames molded plastic chair to take first place at the Museum of Modern Art’s International Low-Cost Furniture Competition in 1948? We weren’t sure, so we asked Eames scholar and Daniel Ostroff. Here’s what we learned:
As Ostroff puts it, “The “Second Place” finish for Charles and Ray deserves an asterisk.” At the time of judging, months before the public exhibition, The Eames had only produced their single-form arm and side chairs in stamped metal. The winning designs—first place was shared by Donald Knorr and George Leowald—were both lightweight and very low cost. In comparison the Eames “shells” were heavier and more expensive.
However, by the time the exhibition opened Charles and Ray had worked out how to make their winning “shapes” from molded plastic. The result was a lighter, cheaper, and easier to produce than the other winner. While technically second place, The Eames molded plastic chair was the star of the show and has proven to be an enduring classic.
Of the two first place designs, only David Knorr’s chair of flat steel joined in a circular shape was produced, albeit for only a few months before being discontinued.