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Emeco Chair Collaborations & Their First Ever Sale In History

I found out via their press release that Emeco, the manufacturer of those cool industrial looking aluminum chairs, is going to have their first ever SALE beginning June 18, 2009 (that's tomorrow!).

I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to show you the many famous designers with whom they've collaborated and their many collections. In doing a little research I was happy to find that Emeco has a deep, informative site from which I could pull some wonderful quotes and sketches for you in addition to product shots. So, check them out.

Emeco, The Aluminum Chair Company, announces its first sale in 65 years. Every product at the Emeco site, will be marked down 15% and standard shipping is free in North America. The sale includes designs and options that are only available from Emeco. The sale will start on June 18 and run though July 9 2009. Many products will ship within two weeks.

Emeco makes all aluminum chairs, kitchen stools and barstools of 80% recycled material, and they are considered a green product according to the LEED criteria. Many chairs and stools stack - saving space, and most can be used outdoors. Seat pads are available on most chairs and stools, and Emeco recently reissued a Navy chair with a solid wood seat, first built in the 1950's. All products are made in Hanover Pennsylvania.

About Emeco:

Emeco was founded in 1944 to make all-aluminum chairs for the US Navy. These indestructible chairs can be found in applications from prisons and submarines to restaurants, hotels and even kitchens. Gregg Buchbinder purchased the company in 1998 and began a friendship and association with the renowned French architect, Philippe Starck (who made the drawing of his Hudson chair, shown below, for Greg) , creating a series of products that united Emeco's historic manufacturing capabilities with Starck's classic designs for a new century.

The Collaborations:

With Philippe Starck:
"Working with Emeco has allowed me to use a recycled material and transform it into something that never needs to be discarded - a tireless and unbreakable chair to use and enjoy for a lifetime. It is a chair you never own, you just use it for a while until it is the next persons turn. A great chair never should have to be recycled. This is good consideration of nature and man kind." - Philippe Starck

Starck sketches and chairs for Emeco:

above: Philippe Starck with his Icon chair for Emeco

In 2000, Starck's Hudson chair for Emeco won the GOOD DESIGN Award and was inducted into the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

With Frank Gehry:
In 2004, Emeco collaborated with the American architect Frank Gehry on Superlight, a chair that utilizes aluminum's ability to be both strong and flexible.

"I wanted three things in this chair: comfort, light weight, and strength. Aluminum was the obvious choice and Emeco was the only company that could make it. It’s been a fun project, and amazingly quick – just 11 months from the first meeting with Gregg to the Milan introduction. Gio Ponti’s Superleggera chair was the inspiration – and I’ve always wanted to design a super lightweight chair. I tried to extract the essence – structure and skin, where engineering and design are one thing. SUPERLIGHT is a chair that moves to accommodate all body types- the sitter activates the chair. And we got it down to 6 ½ pounds, and that makes it easier for a lot more people to use and move around." - Frank Gehry

Gehry's sketches and chairs for Emeco:

above: Gehry discussing the Superlight chair with Emeco owner Gregg Buchbinder

Gehry's chair won another GOOD DESIGN award in 2004 and was included in collections at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Pinakothek der Modern in Munich.

With Norman Foster (Foster & Partners):
In 2007 Emeco's collaboration with Norman Foster "20-06" debuted at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile and won another GOOD DESIGN award, as well as a 2007 Spark Design Award.

"I appreciate the anonymous character of the new chair – it meshes seamlessly with our vision for interior space. The new “20-06” is the result of a genuine collaboration between the Foster Studio and the Emeco Team and will contribute to Emeco's remarkable history. We attempted to fuse modernist form with established craft. The Foster + Partners Studio combined advanced technology, inventive geometry, attention to detail, and sensitivity to ecological considerations with Emeco’s unique manufacturing process to make a wholly new design. A Foster building and an Emeco chair are both modern in character, yet demonstrate a great respect for the past." - Norman Foster

Foster & Partners' sketches and chairs for Emeco:

above: Norman Foster and his chair for Emeco.

With Ettore Sottsass:
In 2008, Emeco launched the Nine-O collection by Ettore Sottsass - the last design by Mr. Sottsass who died in 2007 at the age of 90.

"A chair must be really important as an object, because my mother always told me to offer my chair to a lady" - Ettore Sottsass

Mr. Sottsass' collaboration with Emeco began in Chicago eight years ago when Gregg Buchbinder, Emeco's Chariman, met him at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. "The minute we met, Ettore told me he was an admirer of the Navy chair and in fact wished he had designed it. And we agreed, why not re- design it," remembers Mr. Buchbinder. "I had seen Sottsass' projects in Domus magazine over the years – Esprit, the Amazon Express yacht - in which he had used our chair. Ettore was the first designer who took our chairs out of their typical environments -navy ships prisons, hospitals- and to use them in contemporary interior design projects. Through him Sir Terence Conran, Frank Gehry and Philippe Starck discovered the Emeco chair creating resurgence in the 1990's. It was only right to commission him to celebrate Emeco's resurrection with a new collection."

Ettore Sottsass sketches and chairs for Emeco:

above: the late Ettore Sottsass with Emeco owner, Buchbinder

With Andrée Putnam:
In January of this year, Emeco launched Morgans, a chair by Andrée Putman designed for the restoration of the Morgans Hotel NYC. Emeco is part of the tradition of American mid-century modern manufacturers including Knoll and Herman Miller.

Gregg Buchbinder, remembers the first project meeting, Andrée arrived in the 6 inch stilettos - she is the most stylish woman I have ever known. She told me she wanted to do with the Emeco chair what her friend Coco Channel did with the "little black dress" – create a simple, smart, sexy chair that never goes out of style.”

Andrée Putman's Morgans Chair:

With Adrian Van Hooydonk (BMW Designworks):
The new 1951 chair is an update of an original Emeco chair made for Navy hospitals from 1951. The lower cost chairs and stools have durable ABS seats and backs in five colors and a brushed/ anodized frame that stacks six high. White and silver chairs and stools can be used indoors or out.

"Emeco planned a re-issue of an old chair from 1951, but we quickly agreed that Emeco should create a version of ‘1951’ that retained Emeco's DNA, yet looked forward, Gregg instinctively knows what is good for Emeco and we agreed that the modernization of the original chair would be 100 % Classic Emeco - simple, utilitarian and masculine. Lines and surfaces were discussed at length, as well as the "Stance" of the new ‘1951’, which is a lot more dynamic than the original. The design phase that followed was one of the most collaborative and rewarding experiences of my life. I had dealt with similar issues designing modern cars for the Mini and BMW brands, and I have incorporated these ideas. ‘1951’ is the first Emeco product that combines new materials for the seat and back - technically molded ABS plastic, with classic aluminum construction. This will allow customers to add color and simplifies manufacturing - reducing cost. As in good car-design, these added functional elements create a clean, simple and dynamic look that will appeal to costumers on an emotional level while projecting strength." - Adrian Van Hooydonk

Van Hooydonk of BMW Designworks sketches and chair:

above: Andre Hooydonk of BMW Designworks USA

From a workforce of 15 craftsmen in 1999, Emeco has grown five times and recently instated a second manufacturing shift for the first time in 25 years. Emeco has made over 1,000,000 1006 Navy® chairs since 1944 and now sells its all-aluminum furniture in 50 countries.

Shop for these and tons of other wonderful aluminum chairs on sale, marked down 15% beginning June 18th here at the Emeco site.

All images and info courtesy of

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