Charles Pollock, designer of popular office chair, dies in a fire

New York fire kills the man behind the Pollock chair, as seen in the 'Mad Men' television drama

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:36am


Charles Pollock  1930-2013

Charles Pollock, an industrial designer whose vision of "a simple line in space" led him to develop sleek, functional chairs that became a hallmark of executive suites in the latter 20th century, died in a fire. He was 83.

The fire was in the Queens, New York, apartment he used as a work studio, said Michael Parrella, a spokesman for the New York City Fire Department. Firefighters found his body, he said, adding that the cause of the blaze had not been determined. Pollock's crowning achievement was an office chair characterised by a single aluminium band around its perimeter that held it together, structurally and visually. Massive numbers of the chairs have been sold since its introduction in 1963, and it remains a major piece of the prestigious Knoll Collection. Often simply called the Pollock chair, it has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the Louvre, and made millions in royalties for Pollock.

But for a designer who as a youth doggedly sought out giants of mid-century design - Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, George Nelson and Florence Knoll - and got to work with all of them, the big idea wasn't money. "A chair, it's like a sculpture," he once wrote in a biographical sketch.

The Pollock chair, made of comfortable-looking leather and chrome, was an immediate success and came to be a mainstay of the modern office. As the television drama Mad Men edged from the early into the late 1960s, the chair appeared in the offices it depicts - exactly when it should have.

The chair is still prized by collectors. Even though the royalties he earned from the chair decreased the need to work, Pollock kept designing and making paintings and sculptures. He skied and surfed and travelled. General Electric, Olivetti and other companies commissioned work from him, but the deals fell through.

Pollock's marriage to Maud Nordwald ended in divorce. Other than his partner, Sheryl Fratell, no immediate family members survive.