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Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:25 pm
by SDR
I note that the title of the thread is "1949 Taliesin Origami Chair." It has come to my attention that American designer Paul McCobb produced a design for a molded fiberglass chair in 1960, a design he called Faceted Form Chair. It seems that others have called this chair "Origami." It does not resemble Wright's design.

I find that I have no information on the history of Wright's chair as to date of original design and, more particularly, the date when the word Origami was first applied to the design.

Can anyone provide facts ?


Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:35 pm
by peterm
Mccobb's dialogue with Charles and Ray:

McCobb was not the most original or innovative designer, but I find the results always pitch perfect. His wood designs owe much to Nakashima, and the rest riffs on Wormley, Knoll, Nelson and Eames. Not much of a Wright influence, however; McCobb's furniture is much lighter and airier...

I'm not sure that Wright ever referred to his creation as the Origami, at least on drawings of the chair...

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:52 pm
by SDR
Thanks. Elsewhere online I found a nice-looking black armshell on a star base. There was also an "armless" version. (Those aren't really functioning arms, I guess -- more of an enclosure gesture ?)

Here's the thread that alerted me to the issue: ... d_id=14671


Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:23 am
by owenCollins
FYI I found digital versions of Jack Howe's variation on the University of Minnesota digitized collection.

Both have links to high resolution versions of the images, with legible dimensions and angle measurements.

Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:26 am
by SDR
Thank you, Owen ! At last. And very definitely from the Horse's Mouth, as it were -- not an apprentice or third party more removed from the center of action.

And the name Butterfly Chair -- I had forgotten that term completely. So, who called it what, and when, becomes a question to be answered. Origami vs Butterfly: here we go . . .


Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:46 pm
by SDR
In Howe's horizontally-oriented sheet, dated 8/10/73, the fully-upholstered chair appears to have ideal lounge-chair seat and back angles. Howe has
indicated, and then removed, the "tail" to the (original) seat plane; note that he adjusts the seat angle with an extra panel just under the foam.
Parallel fin-like rear legs replace the "bird's tail" rear foot. I like the triangular glue-blocks under the arms. Howe mentions that the measurements
were taken from a built example -- but we don't know which one.

The other, squarer sheet (Dec, 1986), shows a chair pared down to the minimum number of parts. It also has relatively conventional parallel
plywood rear legs -- perhaps Howe's contribution to the type ? Its narrow "lapels" (arms) are notable; in this it reminds me a bit of the pair of chairs
made for the Sturges residence, presumably drawn by John Lautner. See p 3 of this thread.

Perhaps the Butterfly moniker is not applied much if at all to this chair because there is another, much more ubiquitous modern chair with the same name:


Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:00 pm
by DavidC
Bringing back the 1949 Taliesin Origami Chair thread post-outage.


Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 2:44 pm
by bdey01
Years ago I acquired the Jack Howe prints for the "butterfly chair" from the University of Minnesota. They are great, but as mentioned before, they are not the real 1946 chair design. And in seeing the brand new release from the Foundation on 5/2/18

I would really like to build a more representative version of this beautiful chair. It was mentioned early on in this thread that the archives won't provide the 1946 stand alone plans for this chair, to probably prevent people from making the chair themselves, and to protect Copeland (at the time) and now Cassina. However, I have read that a design for the origami chair was included in the Stromquist residence plans, and wonder if anyone has gone to the effort to get a copy of those plans from the archives, and if so, did it include the chair design in those plans?


Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 5:13 pm
by SDR
There are readable copies of Taliesin drawings of the Origami Chair posted in this thread; they are as authentic as any other original drawings of the
chair. A full sheet, undated, is reproduced on page 89 of "Frank Lloyd Wright 1943-1959" (Taschen). The chair is shown with some decorative
perforations to the spine and arm; the arm perforation is identical to that found on the unique chair seen in photos of the Nathan and Jeanne Rubin
house, Canton, OH, 1952. Virtually all of the dimensions on the drawing are visible, though the reproduction measures only 6 1/2" x 8 1/4".

Persons attempting to construct a copy of this chair will have to interpret the drawings for themselves. I have not seen a Taliesin drawing of the chair
that was 100% reliable or complete; there are internal inconsistencies in all the ones I have studied. And, there are variations in almost every part of the
chair, from one drawing to another, including in the way the chair meets the floor, the detailing of the spine, and the width and angle of the arms.

All of this means that experimentation, mock-ups, and trial parts will have to be a part of the process. And, as mentioned, some choices are to be made,
as well. The photographs here, and elsewhere, will be useful in making the initial selection as to the particular version of the chair you would like to own.

Enjoy !


Posted: Wed May 23, 2018 9:25 am
by SDR ... taliesin-1

bdey01 should be directed to the links in owenCollins's post, above, for Jack Howe's version of the chair.


Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 11:14 am
by bdey01
I acquired the Jack Howe prints years ago, and due to some other events in my life, never got around to building my own version of the chair using these. However, the time has become available to restart my woodworking hobby, and a pair of these chairs along with a Lewis coffee table are in the works. I have found the plans from '73 to be favorable, whereas the '86 plans look a little off to me.

Anyway, how readable are the plans from the Taschen book? I hesitated in purchasing these books when they arrived a few years ago as I spent my FLLW book allowance for the decade when I acquired a set of the monographs a few years back (a deal I thought at $2500, but the wife still didn't like!), and don't know if the cost for a single page of plans is worth it. If someone could post a high quality image or a emailable version, that would be great! Otherwise, is the '73 plans of Howe close to the dimensions that the chairs at Taliesin West have? Just sat in those again recently on a business trip to Phoenix, and they fit like a glove.

Other than the materials, angle to the back, and the cushion thickness, what other changes do folks here think were made to the design that the Cassina people made? Howe's plan from '73 shows the raised cushion bottom so as to get the angle between the back and cushion just over 90 degrees, but by how much? Did the original Taliesin West chairs have the cushion support raised as well? Were these new Cassina chairs modeled after the Howe design? Or something else entirely new?

Finally, does anyone know the answer to my question about the Stromquist residence plans? Specifically, do they have the chair design in the plans, and if so, will the Foundation provide a copy to a requestor like me?

Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 2:04 pm
by SDR
Here's the chair drawing published in Taschen, Taliesin no. 4612.044, at larger than published size. I have also photographed the four quadrants of the sheet, for those interested. My e-mail address is linked below.

I am calling this the Rubin Origami; see photo below of the Rubin chair in situ. A peculiarity of the drawn chair is the raised upholstered headrest, not
found on any built Origami that I have seen -- including the Rubin chair as built. Another difference there is that the arm is called out as 1/2" plywood,
clearly not the case with the built chair.

The seat-to-back angle is a rigid 90º; one sitting in the chair as drawn might experience an even more acute angle.


© 2009 by TASCHEN GmbH and by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation


photo © Alan Weintraub

Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 4:02 pm
by SDR
More drawings -- first, the Howe drawing at the University of Minnesota, then a similar sheet, from Taliesin Associated Architects.

I do not recall where this second drawing was published.

Image Howe

A note on the Howe drawing cautions that the views are "schematic" and should not be scaled. Howe dispenses with the "tail," and wraps padded upholstery over the arms.

Image TAA

Then, comparative section drawings of four chairs, from drawings already cited in most cases. Note that in three of the designs the sitter is presented
with a less-than-ideal seat-to-back angle of ninety degrees; only in Howe's personally-credited variant is the angle opened a bit. This is a move
independent from the insertion of a second seat panel, presumably included so that (in comparison to the Rubin chair, anyway) a standard and not
tapered seat cushion material could be used.

In the Rubin and TAA drawings, the back panel appears to lean slightly forward of the 90º mark. To me this oddity is a reflection of Wright's stated
antipathy toward seating as an activity, and a consequent or parallel misunderstanding of what seated comfort requires ?

Rubin, and Howe


Lamberson (?), and TAA


Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 4:12 pm
by SDR
John Lautner's version of the Origami, as found at the Sturges residence. He retains the tail but dispenses with the fin(s) at the back of the
chair, and modifies the plan shape of the seat while providing voluptuous back upholstery, apparently in smooth Naugahyde or the like.


Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 9:09 pm
by SDR
What a chair with a 90º included angle between seat and back lacks, is lumbar support: a means by which the shoulders can move back while the lower back
is supported. In the case of the Origami -- about which one hears little in the way of complaint -- a quick solution would be a small but somewhat firm pillow
thrown into the "catcher's mitt" and allowed to stand upright on the seat. After sitting, depending on personal anatomy, moving the pillow up a bit could elicit
that gratifying "Aaah . . ." that is music to the furniture-maker's ears . . .

I recall sitting in a small armchair that a fellow design student had made. He took two squares of plywood, capped them on three sides with handrail
molding, and placed a seat and back at a seriously reclined angle between them. I recall being surprised and delighted at the sensation. It may be
that those upholstered surfaces met at a 90º angle. If so, it may be that the normal rule about a lounging posture -- that the angle between seat and
back should increase as the seat is tilted back more, on a continuous scale, ceases to operate when the seat angle is severe enough.

Conversation from a semi-reclined position is hard enough when the knees begin to interfere with sight of one's companions; perhaps when that point is
reached, the mind/body begins to crave a bit more back support, even at the expense of bending further at the waist ?