For its 80th anniversary Knoll pays tribute to design originality, creating a special edition of the Butterfly chair. The year 1938 was a very fertile one for design history: among many developments, the Knoll company was founded, and a very special chair was designed, which Hans Knoll decided to include in the firm’s catalogue from 1947 to 1951, meeting with remarkable success.
Butterfly is a project that cuts across epochs: in 1937 three young architects – Antonio Bonet from Barcelona, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy from Buenos Aires – met in Paris and came up with a formidable intuition. They decided to redesign a true classic of military outfitting, the so-called “Tripolina,” a light folding chair with a wooden
skeleton and metal joints, on which to place a cover in leather or fabric. The original was designed by Joseph B. Fenby in 1877 for the British army.
The three architects worked above all on the structure, influenced by the international spread of metal tubular, associated in the previous decade with the rise of rationalist furnishings.
In 1947 Hans Knoll purchased the rights to the design, and it was produced with great success for four years, as the Model no. 198. The Butterfly came almost 30 years ahead of the radical research on unconventional and vernacular seating. It invented a new way of sitting, freeing people from formal situations and encouraging a new convivial spirit that laid the groundwork for contemporary furniture design, starting in the 1950s.
Today this chair is still recognized as a classic of modernity, a crossover success story, a symbol of lightness and freedom, but also of an elegance that is simultaneously informal and refined.