Mid-Century minutes: George Nelson and his Bubble Light

After graduating with a BF in architecture from Yale in 1931, George Nelson established himself as an expert in the mid-century aesthetic as editor for Architectural Forum. He sought to expand the clean lines of Bauhaus by incorporating splashes of color and a sense of playfulness. As a writer, he published Tomorrow’s House: How to plan your post-war house now with fellow architect Henry Wright. He and Wright introduced the term ‘family room’ establishing a firm departure from sitting rooms and parlors — and more formal living styles.

Nelson went on to become director of design for Herman Miller from 1945-1971, were through his decades-long leadership, he firmly cemented Herman Millers’ position as a key manufacturer of mid-century design by forming lasting relationships with iconic modern designers like Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi.

The Development of the Pendant Bubble Light

Inspired by silk pendant lamps he had seen in Sweden, Nelson sought to create a cost-effective version. After hearing that decommissioned World War II ships were being mothballed in resin, he wondered if a similar technique could be applied to fabric — to create a material that could be machine-stretched over an organic-shaped metal frame. The result is what we know today at theBubble Light.

Want to know more about the development of the pendant light? Watch this short video from Hay.

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