An Uncommon Vision
Alexander Girard's designs come to life in New York City.
Written by: Sam Grawe
Artwork by: Nicholas Calcott
Trained as an architect but proficient in all manner of activities, Alexander Girard was introduced to Herman Miller through Charles Eames and George Nelson, established the Herman Miller Textile Division in 1952 and served as its Director of Design until 1973. From his outpost in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he designed over 300 textiles in multitudes of colourways, multiple collections of wallpaper, decorative prints and wall hangings, an expansive group of furniture and both decorative and useful objects.
His passion for international folk art led him around the globe as he amassed a collection of roughly 106,000 pieces, and his many corporate and freelance assignments – including the La Fonda Del Sol restaurant and the total design programme for Braniff International – engendered lavish praise for his diverse skills and unique vision.
With a resolute and reserved personality, Girard believed that quality should speak for itself, and he did much to propagate the notion that life should be lived with a higher regard for the humanity of one’s surroundings. His uncommon way of seeing and admirably flexible approach to each new solution resulted in an unparalleled body of work that is not only staggering in sheer volume and creativity, but due to its fundamental qualities of beauty and usefulness remains completely relevant today.
Working closely with the Girard family, Herman Miller and Maharam are pleased to be the official producers of Alexander Girard designs and to make available a range of furnishings, objects, screen-printed panels and woven textiles.
On the occasion of the first archival reintroductions of furniture and screen-printed fabric panels by Alexander Girard, we’re celebrating his life and work with a temporary installation in New York City’s Meatpacking District: “Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision”.
A curated exhibit of archival designs including textiles, objects, folk art, ephemera and furniture provides an introduction to the iconic 20th century designer’s vast body of work. New furnishings and fabrics serve as the backbone of a Girard-inspired living room, where visitors can relax and read from a selection of vintage reading material while enjoying a complimentary coffee from La Colombe. A selection of officially licensed Girard designs and products are available for purchase, including books, blankets, posters, dolls and a selection of special-edition pillows from Maharam.
While Girard focused his abilities at Herman Miller on the textile programme, he had a long history of designing furniture for other projects and clients. For Braniff this included sofas, lounge chairs, café seating and tables for its airport lounges. In 1967, these designs were commercialised into the Girard Group, his only collection of furniture for Herman Miller. The new Hexagonal Table, Splayed Leg Table and Colour Wheel Ottoman represent the first archival reproductions of Girard furniture.
In 1972, Girard developed 40 decorative silkscreen designs to add an element of “aesthetic functionalism” to corporate environments. Unlike his printed textiles, the panels consist of single, stand-alone images that range from abstract patterns to figurative pictograms. Herman Miller is pleased to make 12 of these designs available once again.
Maharam has reissued 18 Girard patterns to date as part of its Textiles of the 20th Century series, which is dedicated to faithfully producing re-editions of the work of modern design icons. Girard’s mastery of the textile medium has made his designs, with their complex constructions, unusual yarns and array of vibrant colours, among the most challenging to reproduce.
“Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision” is now open until 28 May at 446 West 14th Street, New York, daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please drop by, or see what people are sharing on social media by following the hashtag #GirardNYC.