Design: Looking Good Is Not Enough

An old-fashioned state-of-the-art designer tops himself

People now spend more time sitting down than ever before in history. A minor achievement of modern civilization, maybe, but it could explain why producing a chair has been an obligatory rite for ambitious designers of this century. Charles Eames is still famous mainly for his chairs, and the best-known works of today's European café-society designers--Philippe Starck, Enzo Mari--are chairs. Aalto, Breuer and Mies made their marks in the '20s partly by making chairs, and such contemporary architects as Gehry, Meier, Graves, Hollein, Venturi and Ambasz have all felt obliged to design chairs as well as buildings.

For Minneapolis-based Bill Stumpf,...

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