The Zig Zag Chair was first introduced in 1934 and is distinctive for its Z-shaped form, evocative of the silhouette of a person sitting. Creating a chair of a single, continuous piece of material was a long-held dream of many designers, especially Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld.
Although the Zig Zag Chair appears simple its construction is complex. Four pieces are joined together using a system of concealed dovetail joints between the seat and back, hidden screws and nuts and reinforced with wooden wedges in the corners. Since it has no legs, joints are placed at optimum load bearing locations. The support of the chair is the diagonal wood plane leading to the front of the main seating plane. It is innovative, stable, sturdy and stackable and remains inspirational for its unique form.
Gerrit Rietveld described this chair as a “designer’s joke.” He advocated for pure abstraction and universality through a reduction to the essentials of form and color. With just base, support, seat, and back, Rietveld’s totally deconstructed chair bears no resemblance to any previous furniture forms.
Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), born in Utrecht, Netherlands, was trained by his father as a cabinetmaker and jewelry designer. In 1917, Rietveld established a cabinetmaking and furniture workshop in Utrecht. He studied architecture and had established his own practice by 1919 when he designed his famous Red/Blue Chair. Rietveld became part of a group called “De Stijl,” (The Style), also known as Neoplasticism, dedicated to utopian ideals of spiritual harmony and order. Visual compositions were simplified to vertical and horizontal lines, combined with strong asymmetry and colors were limited to primary colors plus black and white. Although he had broken with the movement when the Zigzag was introduced in 1934, much of his work in architecture and furniture design was influenced by this movement.
Zig Zag Chair | c.1934
Original: G. van de Groenekan | Netherlands
Current: Cassina | Italy
Dimensions: 15″W x 18″D x 29″H