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Have a Seat!

There’s nothing like a nice place to sit after a long day in the galleries. At the Art Institute you might have noticed there are a quite a few options. And some are even objects in the collection! This is the first of two posts about some special places to take a load off at the museum.

Being a member at the museum has its perks. Not only can you get unlimited admission to our world-class encyclopedic collection but you can enjoy your complimentary coffee in some world-class furniture. Did you know that two iconic works of modern design—Charles Eames’s Molded Plywood Chair (above) and Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair (below)—can be found in our Member Lounge? These chairs are still in production by Herman Miller and Knoll respectively, but some early models are also in our permanent collection.

Husband-and-wife design team, Ray and Charles Eames, might be the most well-known mid-century modern designers. In addition to their popular chairs, like this one made out of molded plywood, they also created videos, exhibition designs, toys, and even a leg splint for the U.S. Navy (Check it out here!).

The MR 90 was designed for the World’s Exposition in Barcelona in 1929, from which it gets its nickname. Initially these chairs were handmade, and early versions can be identified by the joints at the top behind the backrest. These chairs have the simple, functional quality of some of Chicago’s most famous buildings. Which makes perfect sense since the designer, Mies van der Rohe, was also the architect of a number of prominent buildings (Federal Plaza, 900 North Lake Shore Drive, Crown Hall at the IIT Campus, to name a few).

Also, while you’re down in the member lounge, don’t forget to swing by the museum café and check the seating by Don Chadwick. Perhaps in your office you sit in one of his most enduring works, the Aeron chair.

As you head in to Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye, there are chairs designed by David Adjaye for your sitting pleasure. This is a rare opportunity to encounter the works both visually and physically. These newly released chairs by Knoll have the signature “Adjaye style.” Even though the seat playfully cantilevers over the legs, they are deceptively sturdy in their engineering. The Washington Skeleton™ Aluminum Side Chair design shares a similar style and reference to Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, but have a geometric simplicity that brings to mind some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass windows (see the "Tree of Life" Window, 1904 in Gallery 179).

Where are your favorite places to sit at the museum? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for Part 2!

Image Credit: Don Chadwick chair image from Knoll