Early sixties Russia pipped the United States to first place in the Space Race when they sent Yuri Gagarin out on his Vostok 1 space mission on 12 April 1961.
It was a moment that inspired a host of designers and a glut of films, in a decade that would end with Kennedy’s challenge to America to send a man to the moon.
Eerio Aarnio’s Ball Chair came into being with the same intensity as the USA/USSR space race. It was designed by Eerio in 1963, manufactured in 1965 and introduced to the world at the International Furniture Fair in Cologne 1966.
Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair reflected the space-age optimism that pervaded the sixties. It was one of Aarnio’s earliest experiments with glass fibre and plastic, at a time when he and other plastic pioneers Richard Schultz, Verner Panton and Joe Colombo were proving a force to be reckoned with in the field of synthetic furniture.
Eero Aarnio was born in Helsinki in 1932. He studied at the Institute of Industrial Arts and graduated in interior architecture in 1957.
After graduation Aarnio worked for designer Ilmari Tapiovaara before heading to Antti Nurmesniemi’s studios and then the Asko furniture factory.
Like many designs, the Ball Chair, or Globe Chair, sprang from a desire for a much-needed chair in his own home.
Aarnio knew he wanted to create something innovative, but it had to be large enough for him to fit into while also being able to fit through a door. He decided on a room-within-a-room design that would closet the sitter away from outside distractions.
Set on a turning pedestal, it would allow the user to turn into or away from the room at a whim.
Aarnio made the chair by covering a plywood body mould with wet paper and laminating the surface with fibreglass, similar to the way you would create a glider fuselage or a racing dinghy.
He rubbed down the outside, removed the mould from the inside, added a stabilizing metal ring, upholstery and stand. He even installed a red telephone on the inside wall of his own personal chair.
When two managers from the kitchen and laundry appliance company Asko, visited Aarnio about other designs, they were so impressed by the Ball Chair that they asked if they could approach their MD to put it into production.
The New York Times declared Aarnio’s Ball Chair one of “the most comfortable forms to hold the human body”.
It became the ultimate baddie’s chair as the centrepiece in Number Two’s control room in cult British science-fiction series The Prisoner and sat centre stage in the window of Mary Quant’s London shop surrounded by her swinging London, Mod designs.
Aarnio went on to design other much-loved pieces in 1968 including two indoor-outdoor chairs: a hanging Bubble Chair made of Lucite, and his Pastil.
Recently, Aarnio replaced the fibreglass with safer and less environmentally damaging types of plastic.