When the Parrish Art Museum opened its new home in November 2012, the Herzog & de Meuron–designed building became a stark symbol of economic austerity: The budget for the Milltown, Long Island, institution had been slashed by two-thirds during the 2008 fiscal crisis, from $82 million to a little over $26 million. Once conceived as a cluster of sheds, the museum was scaled down to a single large barn-like expanse. To complement the revised plan, the architects turned to the German designer Konstantin Grcic to sketch up some pieces of recession-friendly outdoor furniture expressly for the site’s public spaces.
By all accounts, Grcic was the right man for the job, with a long track record of working efficiently with novel materials. He also knew exactly which manufacturer could do the job: Emeco, a Pennsylvania-based company with deep experience making aluminum chairs, starting with the classic Navy chair in 1944. Together, they developed the Parrish collection, which debuted this month in Milan and is now available for retail sale.
The six-piece series includes two chairs (lounge and side), whose curving seatbacks attest to Grcic’s effort to use as little metal as possible, as well as four tables of varying heights. But the real innovation lies beneath the minimal frames. All the pieces use a common hub—or, what the designer refers to as the "heart"—for joining the elements of the chair "to form a strong, integral anatomy." Despite their minimal, cold aesthetic, Grcic, according to Emeco’s press release, says that the chairs were designed to be comfortable and provide a sense of privacy even in a very public setting: "Considering the public self-awareness in a museum seat, the Parrish chair was given a generous seat and a round tube, forming a belt that defines the space around you—a space where you can feel protected." Just don’t expect it to protect you from the ravages of a recession; it takes more than an enveloping backrest (or even a "trusted" investment adviser) to do that.
Prices start around $990. More info: (800) 366-5951 or emeco.net.