A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Hump Day Cool Finger: The Eames Lounge Chair and the AK47


The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

For this weeks Hump Day Cool Finger we thought that instead of lambasting hybrid art projects and lamenting the dissolution of culture into a smattering of commercial trinkets – a theme which any new readers are no doubt unfamiliar with – we would instead offer a tonic, a refreshing and insightful gander at two design classics that bare more than a passing resemblance to one another.

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, correctly titled Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671), were released in 1956 after years of development by designers Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company. It was the first chair that the Eames designed for a high-end market[1] and has been in production consistently since its inception. The leathers, the Brazilian Rosewood veneers and the symphony of hidden clips, rings and shock mounts that allow the outside appearance of this sublime creation to exist unmarred by screws or bolts amount to an instant design classic, but what few people realize is that the chair actually began its life in 1942 as a molded plywood splint for the US military.


The AK-47 (or Kalashnikov).

The AK-47 (or Kalashnikov) is a selective fire, gas operated 7.62mm assault rifle developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1940s. Six decades later, the AK-47 and its variants and derivatives remain in service throughout the world. Designed as the ultimate tool for the revolution it has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with regular armed forces as well as irregular, revolutionary and terrorist organizations worldwide. The key to its broad application and hybridization is the fact that despite Russia repeatedly claiming that the majority of manufacturers produce AK-47s without a proper license from IZH, the Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory did not acquire a patent until 1999.

Despite this recent decree which technically makes the manufacture of the Kalashnikov rifle system by anyone other than the IZH illegal, their production and customization by every odbod and wannabe Che Guevara since the Forties means that over one million AK-47 assault rifles are currently manufactured without a license each year.

Both of these products come in an array of variations. The AK-47 has been customized and appropriated by just about any and every mobile infantry on the face of the Earth, and the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, although produced under a strict license, is available in many forms and as countless knock offs.

When considering these facts it seemed kind of sad that these two products, clearly seminal and widely reproduced in a variety of forms, are restricted officially by patents while constantly bastardized without sanction. So today, quite uncharacteristically, we seek to venerate hybridization, and in spite of the recent shootings here in Miami call to those who hold the keys to adaptation and innovation to throw open their doors and let choice and reign, if only for a day.


[Update: Thanks to a few comments corrections have been made to the text regarding the Eames'. We are now going with Wikipedia's information.]

This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.


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Hump Day Cool Finger: The Eames Lounge Chair and the AK47