Eero Aarnio

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 12:00am

What is he famous for? His floating Ball Chair. You might have spotted his furniture on the big screen. In Tommy (1969), star Anne Margaret swans around a white bedroom complete with an Eero Aarnio white Ball Chair. In the 1996 Jack Nicholson film Mars Attacks, two Ball Chairs enveloped in polka-dot fabric appear. The same chair also crops up in the 1993 slacker film Dazed And Confused, along with classic TV programmes such as The Prisoner. It was even recruited by British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood for one of her shows.

Why does this particular model exert such fascination? Well, the design was original and dynamic - the ball, a fibreglass orb, rides a swivelling aluminium pedestal.

What followed it? The Bubble Chair (right): a see-through number that hangs from the ceiling like a hammock and affords you quiet and privacy. As a result, the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor has Bubble Chairs in the entrance hall of its new building in Oslo to offer calm 'rooms' for mobile phoning.

So the Bubble lives up to its name - it's a protective island. And a glamour symbol. Fashion designer Donatella Versace, actress Darryl Hannah and singer Nina Hagen have graced the Bubble on photo shoots. Porn star Carmen Electra appeared in one on the cover of the December 2000 issue

of Playboy.

Curves, curves, curves. Yes. Like the equally funky Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, Aarnio seems fixated by them. Another of his works, the Tomato Chair, goes even more overboard. Approach the chair from the front and you see two round shapes - that is, two circles, as in the word tOmatO.

Does he ever dabble in the angular? Well, he has flirted with the spiral.

As in the sea shell? No, the cylindrical screw. Consider his screw table inspired by the realisation that a screw resembles that item of furniture. According to Aarnio, his take stimulates your imagination and creativity, making you feel as if you are in a land of giants where even normally tiny objects are half your size.

Where does he come from? The land of those mythical hippo-like creatures, the Moomins. He was born in Helsinki in 1932 and studied at the city's Institute of Industrial Arts. He started playing with plastics in 1960 and opened his own design office two years later. The Ball and the Pastil or Gyro Chair became two of the most famous chairs of the decade. The Pastil, a radical rocking chair, won the 1968 American Industrial Design Award.

The New York Times described the pair as 'the most comfortable forms to hold up the human body'. Less flatteringly, Conran's Design Directory describes them as 'essays in period style, props from Barbarella'.

Where can I buy his work? Everywhere from Andorra to Venezuela. In Hong Kong, try Aluminium, shop 1B, Capitol Plaza, 2 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2546 5904.