MoMA: International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design

DATE - 1948

The Museum of Modern Art and a group of American retailers and manufacturers organized a museum design contest called the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design in 1948.

Additional Information

The competition was motivated by the urgent need in the postwar period for low-cost housing and furniture solutions adaptable to small housing units. Designers were invited to focus on a particular “technology” and to form design research teams. The Eames Office, alongside engineers from UCLA, submitted a set of designs for low-cost seating that shared second prize in the “seating units” category, out of 3,000 entries. The contest granted six teams $5,000 each.

The Eames and UCLA entry stressed Charles’s continuing commitment to reduce the cost of furniture by utilizing factory technologies of mass production. Graphic panels showed mechanical drawings, specifications, and text detailing a proposed series of seats stamped from aluminum or steel. The enthusiastic response to the competition was an indication of the recognition by American and European designers of the need to create low-cost furniture for the postwar market. The exhibition, after the contest period ended, opened in May 1950 and featured a molded plastic armchair, papier-mâché models of armchairs, and metal prototypes of side chairs. 

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