West Week Spotlights Furniture

While planners and politicians may be concerned about the consequences of the numerous new office buildings going up in cities across the country, including the 18 million square feet planned or in construction in downtown Los Angeles alone, interior designers are ecstatic.

Those millions of square feet must be furnished and decorated, the prospect of which lends excitement to the International Contract Furniture Design exhibit and symposium known as West Week, held annually at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

This year’s West Week attracted an estimated 20,000 creators, buyers, sellers and connoisseurs of interior designs, the so-called “to-the-trade-only crowd.” As usual, they came not only to look over a variety of new products, but to toast one another at numerous receptions and listen to an impressive array of speakers brought in to elevate the gathering above just another trade show.

Under a variety of broad themes, such notables as biologist Jonas Salk talked about evolution, architect Moshe Safdie explored the form and purpose of design, economist Doris Holleb commented on the future of cities, art collector Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo commented on the integration of architecture and light, critic Wolf Von Eckardt of Time magazine defended gentrification and Michael Pittas of the Otis Art Institute called attention to the critical role the public sector has had shaping urban environments.


National Attention

There also was architect Jon Jerde applying the concept of urban theater to his designs for shopping centers, in particular Horton Plaza, a multi-use, multi-level, open-air commercial conglomeration planned to open this summer in San Diego, and already attracting national attention.

Jerde was featured along with an amiable James Wines, the president of SITE, a New York-based firm best known for its designs and decorations executed for a series of showrooms for the Best Products Co. Involving collages and fragments of architecture, punched out walls and crumbling facades, the showrooms are engaging and provocative, reflecting a rare wit and intelligence .

Wines also gave what amounted to a beginners workshop on how publicity-conscious designers massage the architectural press, using a good portion of his time at the lectern to praise the social prowess of Charles Gandee of Architectural Record, who had introduced him. One wonders what Wines would have said if he had been introduced by Pilar Viladas of Progressive Architecture.


Try as most speakers did to make the audience more design conscious, or at least to better appreciate the design process, the real stars of West Week were, of course, the displays of new furnishings, in particular various lines serving the increased use of computer terminals at desks.

New Showroom

Among the more popular for browsing was the new Steelcase Inc. showroom on the third floor of the center, designed by Orlando Diaz-Azcuy and Gensler & Associates. With its terrazzo floors, white-lacquered walls, light blue ceiling and subtle lighting, the 14,000-square-foot showroom seemed almost to make the company’s new line of office furniture disappear into a California haze. Mellow.

One floor below, Herman Miller Inc. was displaying its “Ethospace” office system, (above top) designed by Bill Stumpf in collaboration with Jack Kelley and Clino Castelli. The system seemed flexible, if not shallow, quite appropriate to the “yuppie” office workers the company says the line has been designed for. Slick.


More severe was the “squiggle” table by Ron Rezek, (above center) featuring a “colorcore” table top by Formica, the open office system designed by Fritz Haller, and the integrated table group designed for American Seating by Jonathan Giviat. Boring.

Among the designs of new chairs was “duo,” (above right) an elegant creation in two models by Werther Toffoloni for Atelier International. Outstanding also was the “oculus” chair designed by Ward Bennett for Brickel, and the “courthouse” chair by Kenneth Walker for Gunlocke. Less successful were the armchairs for the Hayes Co., the flimsy “network” chairs for ICF and the Carrington collection from Artec.

Competition Winners

On display also were the winners of Progressive Architecture magazine’s fifth annual International Furniture Competition, which this year attracted no fewer than 920 submissions from 30 countries.


Most engaging among the four creations that won awards was a music stand of polished brass with acrylic glazing designed by Ruth Rotholz and Roger Tucker of New York. Winning a citation for a mahogany working desk (above left) was Sava Cvek of Newton, Mass.

Also among the winners was Michael Graves of Princeton, N.J., who submitted an upholstered stool of stained maple veneer. It seems a competition is not a competition these days without some recognition being given to Graves, however arbitrary and vacillating his entry may be. The situation is not very healthy for the jury and for Graves, as well as for other competitors.

Two events of some note: Rich ard Meier, last year’s winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize AND the coveted commission to design the new Getty museum and fine arts center in Brentwood, will be on public display Wednesday when he speaks at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The lecture, sponsored by the museum and the USC Architectural Guild, is scheduled for 8 p.m. in the Leo Bing Theater.

Also on display this week through April 30 at the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning in suburban Westwood is an innovative study of light, shadow and perspective. Designed by a bevy of French architects who mapped the passages of light and shadow in the Villa Medici in Rome, the study is entitled “Le Volume Bleu et Jaune,” the blue and yellow volume. It promises to be fascinating.