Bernhardt Design, the 32-year-old company founded by Bernhardt Furniture Company, will introduce globally the first design by Charles Pollock for an American company in 47 years at the London Design Festival in September.
The 82-year-old designer says of his design process, "It starts as a thought, and then becomes an idea, something I might think about for years. When the time is right, I express it on paper, usually as a simple line in space. Finally it takes shape and becomes a product or sculpture." This deliberate process of creation produced the iconic Pollock Chair.
When it was released by Florence Knoll in 1965, the chair became the most successful office chair in history and a symbol of the modern office.
"I've always been fascinated by Charles Pollock. He created such a significant product, yet very little has ever been published about him. Given our fascination with mid-century American designers, this lack of information seemed remarkable to me," says Jerry Helling, President of Bernhardt Design. "When I started my search to find Charles, I simply wanted to meet him and hear his story. I didn't dream at the time that he would be willing and excited to design a new product after all these years."
Pollock's career has included work with George Nelson's design studio in the 1950s and the 657 Sling Chair, the first of several products for Knoll in 1960. In 1982, the Italian company Castelli introduced another breakthrough Pollock design in Europe, the Penelope Chair, which was one of the first passively ergonomic chairs produced with simple parts. Twenty years before mesh became an indispensable material in furniture, Pollock used it as the key component in the Penelope Chair.
In late 2010, a hand-delivered letter of introduction from Helling encouraged Pollock to schedule a meeting. Surprisingly, their first meeting concluded with a plan to explore several design concepts for a new product. Pollock and Helling spent the next few months evaluating a number of ideas before selecting the CP Lounge as their first project together.
Pollock's approach in designing the CP Lounge was a departure from anything he had done previously. "At Pratt we were taught to sketch, model and build, and that has always been my discovery process," states Pollock. "Sixty years later with this chair, I did my first production drawing and Bernhardt made the prototype." Even though the design process was a deviation for Pollock, the inspiration for the chair - an unbroken line in space - was very familiar. "Designing using a continuous line leads you in one direction: toward simplicity," maintains Pollock. "Your eyes follow the line around the perimeter of the chair and it appears to be floating in space; it is so simple."
Where Pollock used metal to trace the exterior shape of his chairs in the past, he turned to distinctive sewing techniques in the CP Lounge, which is available in two versions. "The large loop stitch, made of the same material as the chair, is more subtle and adds a new dimension," says Pollock. "It also brings a higher level of craftsmanship to the chair. It is a lot like an old Jaguar, the profile of frame makes it look racy and fast, but you look inside and you see hand-sewn leather and burl. The chair has speed and craft."
During the past 10 years, Helling's creative team has positioned Bernhardt Design as one of the leading international design companies with a roster of talent that includes: Ross Lovegrove, Arik Levy, Jaime Hayon and Yves Béhar.