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Landi Chair Design: Hans Coray, 1938

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Design drawings by Hans Coray, 1938 Š Coray


The Landi Chair The Landi Chair goes back to one of the great moments in design history. Hans Coray, humanist and artist, designed the aluminium chair as the official seating for outdoor areas of the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition. He created a chair that would be weatherproof, lightweight and comfortable and suited for industrial production using the latest technical capabilities of aluminium processing.

The Landi Chair continues to set benchmarks in industrial design through its efficient use of materials and functional elegance. Yet up to now, the history of the classic has been marked by alternating manufacturers, breaks in production and modifications to the original design. Now seventy-five years after its debut, the Landi Chair has found a new home at Vitra.


Design drawings by Hans Coray, 1938 Š Coray


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Pioneer of modernism The Landi Chair took advantage of technical advances in the processing of aluminium like no other piece of furniture of its day. Its understated, elegant design – perfectly tailored to the needs of industrial production and workmanship of the material – has rightly gone down in history as a modern masterpiece.

The seat shell of the Landi Chair not only follows the contours of the sitter's body but, in contrast to Alvar Aalto's plywood shells, is also shaped in a transverse direction. For the first time ever, Coray achieved a threedimensionally moulded seat shell whose comfort is additionally enhanced by the flexibility of the aluminium sheeting. The shell is perforated with 91 punched holes, which give the chair its characteristic appearance and further reduce its weight.

For the base, Hans Coray used the material aluminium in a different form: as extruded profiles whose C-shaped cross section makes them lightweight yet stable. The bent aluminium profiles each form a pair of legs with an armrest and – connected by two thin struts – simultaneously serve as the base. The perforated seat shell floats on top, connected at just four points.


The Landi Chair thus introduced a structural principle that was systematised and perfected a few years later by Charles and Ray Eames and has firmly established its place in the canon of furniture design: a seat and back shell resting on a self-supporting frame.


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Classic of the present The Landi Chair occupies an important place in twentieth-century design history. The chair not only articulates a Swiss design philosophy characterised by reduction, functionality and precision. It also stands at the interface of classic modernism and organic forms of mid-century design. Despite its pioneering achievements, the Landi Chair still remains an insider tip beyond Switzerland's borders. Although represented in leading design collections worldwide and cherished by many designers and architects, it is lesser known among the broader public than the cheap imitations with perforated plastic shells, which have proliferated in gardens and terraces since the 1960s.

Seventy-five years after the Swiss National Exhibition in Zurich, new manufacturing methods have now made it possible to resume production in the original spirit and at a reasonable cost. Working together with Henriette Coray, Vitra has taken the Landi Chair back to the original shell form and detailing while simultaneously adapting it to today's standards.

Cover of brochure for P.&W. Blattmann, Wädenswil, 1959/60 Š Museum fßr Gestaltung, Zurich, Pro Litteris


Cover of brochure for P.&W. Blattmann, Wädenswil, 1959/60 © Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, Pro Litteris


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 © Keystone


Zurich 1939 In the late 1930s, Switzerland was a country surrounded by fascist regimes and a culture that felt threatened in its very existence. As a cosmopolitan city where many international artists and literary figures had taken refuge, Zurich was selected as the venue for the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition (Schweizerische Landesausstellung). This major public event extending over several months – soon nicknamed 'Landi' – staged a presentation of Swiss culture and history, which was meant to strengthen the national identity and demonstrate its defensive preparedness. At the same time, it showcased Switzerland as a technologically innovative and socially modern country and deliberately countered the contemporary zeitgeist of gigantism with architecture on a human scale.

Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Peter Klauser, Fotostiftung Schweiz, Pro Litteris


The exhibition concept aimed at providing visitors with a wide range of educational and emotional experiences. The expansive grounds on both sides of Lake Zurich provided the setting for exhibitions on traditions, folk art and agriculture as well as pavilions on the chemical industry or aluminium and power production or amusements such as boat rides along an artificial stream. A total of 1500 Landi Chairs were distributed in the public areas along the shore of the lake and between the individual pavilions, providing weary exhibition-goers with a place to sit and rest. The modern chairs were instantly popular, described in contemporary commentaries as charming, light and cheerful, plain and simple but also lively and dynamic. Their comfortable seat shells and exceptional lightness were a hit with the crowds. ' The subtly gleaming silver chairs can be carried wherever our desire leads us, as easily as a newspaper or a book. ' – according to a newspaper account from the time.


Hans Coray's description of how the Landi Chair came about, 10 June 1984 © Coray


Hans Coray Hans Coray (1906-1991) was a humanist with a diverse range of interests. He completed a doctorate in Romance languages, experimented with metal and wire as an autodidact and developed furniture designs and products before ultimately concentrating on the fine arts. The Zurich resident was active in the artistic circles affiliated with the Dada movement and the Zurich Concretes headed

Drawing by Hans Coray Š Coray

by Max Bill. He also knew the Bauhaus student Hans Fischli, who was an assistant to the head architect of the exhibition. Leading up to the event, Coray was commissioned by a Zurich graphic design firm to create individual design elements for the aluminium, chemistry and electricity pavilions at the Swiss National Exhibition.

Hans Coray Š Roland Benz


In 1938, Hans Fischli asked him to develop models for the official chair of the exhibition with the instruction that it 'be new in every respect' . Within a short time, Hans Coray came up with two prototypes, guided by the goal of designing ' a chair made entirely of aluminium for vertical stacking '. He wanted to create a lightweight and graceful chair that combined an inviting appearance with outstanding comfort.

As the first of Coray's seating designs to enter production, the Landi Chair became a milestone in design. Alongside his work as an exhibition stand designer, Hans Coray continued to create furniture into the 1950s. In the later years of his life, he increasingly turned his attention to painting and sculpture.

' If one could distill Coray's sensitivity to form, the expert craftsmanship and technical know-how, the curiosity about the already existent, the emergent and the not yet existing, the fundamentally humanistic outlook and the quiet sly humour, then we would have the essence of the perfect designer, the kind we need today more than ever. ' (The art historian Willy Rotzler for the exhibition 'Hans Coray'. 1986)

Hans Coray's description of how the Landi Chair came about, 10 June 1984 Š Coray


Hans Coray Š Roland Benz


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Willi Fehlbaum, Charles Eames and the Landi Chair outside the Eames House Š Eames Office LLC


Landi Chair and Vitra 'A photo from the late 1950s shows my father with Charles Eames. In the background: the Landi Chair.

The Landi Chair has long been an important point of reference for me. Anyone who collects and produces chairs as I do enjoys putting together their dream collection. Hans Coray's Landi Chair is certainly a part of mine. An additional factor is that this important design comes from Switzerland and represents something eminently Swiss. Almost thirty years ago, in late 1985, I sat down with Hans Coray, his wife Henriette and our head of development. We discussed how the chair could be better produced. But we realised that the project could not be successfully pursued

Rolf Fehlbaum with the Landi Chair, 2014


under the circumstances at the time. This has now changed. Today we have the technology to produce the chair in a way that meets our exacting requirements. And we can do so at a reasonable price, for instance, because we are able to employ robots for certain work steps. For Vitra, the Landi Chair is also a witness to a past era standing for values we admire. It perfectly exemplifies the spirit of modernism and its call for a new beginning, yet remains a vital role model for the present.' (Rolf Fehlbaum)

Willi Fehlbaum, Charles Eames and the Landi Chair outside the Eames House Š Eames Office LLC


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 © Keystone


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Eames House Following the Swiss National Exhibition, Coray's design was not manufactured again until 1952 when production resumed on a small scale. Outside Switzerland, the Landi Chair was primarily known among design enthusiasts and experts. Nevertheless, its reputation and impact carried over to the United States. Charles and Ray Eames knew of the Landi Chair and appreciated its innovative characteristics. It stood in the garden of their home in Pacific Palisades.

Charles & Ray Eames with Isamu Kenmochi on the terrace of the Eames House Courtesy of the Matsudo City Board of Education, Chiba Prefecture Japan

The Landi Chair in the Eames House Š Eames Office LLC

< Landi Chair on the Eames House lawn Š Eames Office LLC


While the Californian designers furnished the interior of the Case Study House with their own designs, there was no better solution for the exterior than the weatherproof Landi Chair.

In the late 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames began to experiment with plastics, culminating in the introduction of the Eames Fiberglass Chairs in 1950. This series perfected a design idea that had also preoccupied Hans Coray: that of an industrially manufactured, three-dimensionally moulded seat shell resting on a self-supporting base. The Eames Fiberglass Chair thus established the new typology of the plastic shell chair. Hans Coray's design of the Landi Chair can be seen as an important predecessor of this significant chair type, which continues to be produced today in all manner of variations.


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


' Certainly not the first chair to be machine made, but to this day one of the most impressive examples of what industry can do to material. The round holes are punched through with a radiused edge, lending a certain softness to what would otherwise be a rather crude solution for a seat. The holes not only allow rain water to drain, but also give extra rigidity to the shell, providing an element of transparency which emphasises the extreme lightness of the chair and enriches the plainness of the sheet material surface. '

(Jasper Morrison)


Swiss National Exhibition, 1939 Š Hans Baumgartner, Fotostiftung Schweiz


Lightweight silver In the late nineteenth century, the light weight and gleaming polished surface of aluminium, the metal of the future, earned it the name 'the lightweight silver '. At the time, it was used for decorative objects and household articles and held special significance for Switzerland. As a country with few mineral resources, Switzerland readily adopted aluminium as 'its metal', as it could be produced primarily from domestic power sources generated in numerous hydroelectric plants and required only small amounts of imported bauxite ore. Europe's first aluminium factory opened its doors in Schaffhausen am Rhein in 1888 and soon aluminium manufacturers and processors in Switzerland were operating at the forefront of technology. In the early 1930s, the country was one of the world's biggest exporters of aluminium, with the material

Aluminium, the Swiss metal of the nineteenth century


playing an important role in shaping the country's image and identity.

Aluminium was used at the time as a lightweight metal in the building of aircraft and automobiles and had been discovered as a faรงade material in architecture. Furniture also began to be produced with aluminium components. Depending on the hardness of the alloy, the material could be cast, drawn into profiles or rolled into sheets and offered a wide range of options for mechanical processing and surface finishing. As a new industrial material, aluminium was a source of great fascination for many designers and engineers. With his design of the Landi Chair, the first aluminium chair with a continuous seat shell, Hans Coray put forth a further symbol of the importance of aluminium and Swiss modernity.


Davy Table

Design: Michel Charlot, 2014

The young Swiss designer Michel Charlot has developed a table to go with the Landi Chair. His design takes up the same material as the classic chair and mirrors its companion in terms of material efficiency, functionality and elegance. Thanks to its anodised surfaces, the robust Davy Table is suited for use in outdoor areas. It complements the Landi Chair and embraces its vocabulary of functional forms.

The punched hole in the sheet aluminium table top refers to the characteristic 91 holes of the chair and simultaneously serves to accommodate a parasol. The table's base made of aluminium tubing ensures stability while also lightening the overall weight.

Michel Charlot


Like the Landi Chair, the Davy Table also has four legs and can be stacked. The two make a striking pair but can also be used in combination with other chairs or tables. Charlot chose the table's name in homage to the English chemist Sir Humphry Davy, who in 1808 was the first to identify and attempt to isolate the metal aluminium.

' Most of the time, design is part of an evolution. Dramatic changes and improvements generally happen with the use of new materials, like aluminium. The question was how to design an aluminium table that can stand nicely next to the Landi Chair but also next to many other chairs. ' (Michel Charlot)


Technical details Seat shell: pressed aluminium sheeting with 91 punched holes, matte anodised surface.

Base: armrests and legs from bent aluminium profiles, with welded aluminium cross braces, matte anodised surface.

Glides: light grey injection-moulded TPE.

Applications: suitable for outdoor use.

Note: as in the original design, the Landi can be stacked up to 6 units high. Vitra's re-edition of the classic stays true to the original while making the most of the latest technical possibilities. The anodised aluminium surface of the chair is durable and weather-resistant but may develop signs of wear and tear if the chairs are stacked.


475 18¾”

515 20¼”

515 20¼”

650 25½”

405 16”

max. 6

650 25½”

795 31¼” 585 23”

475 18¾”

795 31¼” 585 23” 405 16”

515 20¼” 650 25½”

515 20¼”

650 25½”


Sandoz Basel. Work break on the roof of the packaging facility, 1961 Š Novartis


Production notes Concept & art direction Mé | Mesmer Société

Photography Véronique Hoegger Marc Eggimann Florian Böhm Markus Frietsch

Lithography GZD Media GmbH

Printing and production DesignPress GmbH

2014, article no. 09164802

Vitra Charles-Eames-Str. 2 D-79576 Weil am Rhein +49 (0)7621 702 3500 info@vitra.com www.vitra.com


Sandoz Basel. Work break on the roof of the packaging facility, 1961 Š Novartis


www.vitra.com/landi

Landi Chair, Vitra  
Landi Chair, Vitra  

Publication for the contemporary furniture company Vitra. The publication was part of the recent relaunch of the iconic Landi Chair. The Pub...

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