15 iconic examples of Mid-century Modernism

Mid-century modernism dates back from 1940 to 1960.

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Mid-century modernism dates back from 1940 to 1960.

However, the old trends are still in fashion and open to the critic. The old trends of the mid cannot be forgetten. The aesthetic achievements of cult dramas such as Mad men are few such examples. Moreover, the mid-century modernism including vintage designs, antique furniture and alike are still in demand.

Mid-century modernism

It can be defined as a clan design movement that may include interior design, furniture, products, clothes, graphics, and many more. This trend continued till the 20th century. However, the dates are still controversial.

Defining mid-century modern style

As the name suggests, it was a simple, clean, and decent design. Moreover, it engaged vibrant colors and a myriad of shapes. An example of the evolution of earlier Modernist styles such as Bauhaus, which is 100 years old this year, can be taken in this regard.

Let’s jump into the top 15 iconic examples of mid-century modernism:

Helsinki University of Tech

Finnish designer Alvar Aalto is best known for his architecture, furniture, textiles, and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings. One of his landmark work is the design of Baker House at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The design consisted of ‘red-brick.’ Moreover, it was completed in 1949. Its undulating form gave each resident the best possible view of the Charles River.

Linen type postcards

Linen Type postcards have always been famous in the US, which largely comprised national view-cards of American cities, buildings, and monuments. Curt Teich in Chicago was the most prolific publisher of these postcards. He used to produce on paper with a high rag content, they had a fabric-like feel. Few masterpieces include San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

Long Chair by Eames

Many mid-century modern designers opted for aesthetic and traditional designs for furniture. For aesthetic effects, metal, glass, vinyl, and plywood were commonly used. Perhaps the most famous example of mid-century modern furniture is the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. This was designed specifically for Herman Miller in 1956, which combines curved outer shells in molded, veneered plywood with soft leather.

Charles and Ray Eames is the one brand that is still in demand today.

Ceramic Pottery

Edith Heath founded Heath Ceramics in 1948. He founded a new range of modern ceramic tableware, as well as architectural tiles. Heath Ceramics’ most famous Coupe line has stayed in constant demand since it was released. It then came in various colors and textures.  

Farnsworth House 

Another icon of mid-century modern architecture is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, completed in 1951. It was a one-room weekend retreat commissioned by prominent Chicago nephrologist Dr. Edith Farnsworth. It was 1,500 square-foot steel and glass construction can be found 50 miles outside of Chicago, just south of Plano, Illinois. 

Egg Chair

Egg chairs were designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 for the Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen. They were considered the most iconic example of mid-century modernism. Making use of state-of-the-art materials at the time, it was thought to be inspired by Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair.

The Egg, in particular, enjoyed a return to the limelight in 2000: it was used as the diary room chair in the first UK series of Big Brother.

The famous Paul Rand logo

Paul Rand is also a pioneer of mid-century modern graphic design, applying the principles of bold geometric shapes, clean lines, and graphic symbolism to his logos for the likes of IBM, UPS, and ABC. His simple and decent design attracted many graphic designers

Palacio da Alvorada

This site is located in Brasília, Oscar Niemeyer’s design for the Palacio da Alvorada. It is regarded as the official residence of the President of Brazil. Completed in 1958, it has been the residence of every Brazilian president since Juscelino Kubitschek and is a National Historic Heritage Site.

Lucienne Day’s abstract work

It is a different colored palette design. They often include light, bright and vivid hues such as sunshine yellow, mint, and fuchsia, as well as warm, rich, and earthy hues such as gold, paprika red, and olive green. Lucienne Day’s graphic pattern work was hugely influential on the mid-century modernism aesthetic. It was applied to everything from wallpapers and carpets to ceramics and mosaics.

MIT Chapel

Eero Saarinen’s design for the non-denominational chapel on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the next iconic example. A striking windowless brick cylinder set inside a shallow concrete moat, topped by an aluminum spire. Saarinen created texture by deliberately selecting bricks that were rough and imperfect.

PH Artichoke Pendant 

Danish architect and designer Poul Henningsen contributed to this beautiful design of Artichoke Pendant. It is made up of interlocking geometric ‘leaves’, the distinctive fixture features a chrome inner diffuser, and is available in copper, white, or brushed stainless steel. It’s so heavy, it needs steel aircraft cables to support it.

Book covers by Rudolph de Harak

Rudolph de Harak was another leading exponent of mid-century modernism in graphic design. His book cover designs for McGraw-Hill Paperbacks are outstanding examples of this style, communicating diverse and complex topics. His illustrations for Modern Nuclear Technology, for example, and Personality and Psychotherapy, use simple, graphic, overlapping shapes – a characteristically mid-century.

Saul Bass sequence graphics

Saul Bass is an icon of mid-century modernism in graphic design. He is known for his corporate identity work for clients such as Bell System and Continental Airlines. Moreover, he is also famous for his creative movie title sequences and film posters. They were simple, easy, and unique.

Tulip chair 

Eero Saarinen designed tulip chairs in 1955 and features the distinctive smooth curves and experimental materials characteristic of mid-century modern design.

Although Saarinen had originally planned to produce the chair from a single piece of molded fiberglass. However, the material proved unable to support the weight and so the base was constructed from cast aluminum instead, then painted to match the upper shell perfectly.

Stahl House 

Pierre Koenig’s iconic Stahl House is another such example. It was built in 1959 as part of the Case Study Houses program – and is also known as Case Study House #22. It is located in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. The house was made famous by a Julius Shulman photograph showing two women sitting in one corner, with an awe-inspiring panoramic view behind them through its floor-to-ceiling glass walls. It was listed among the best monuments in LA.