The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher

A comprehensive retrospective on the work of George Nelson opens at the Hong Kong Design Institute on 14 March.

George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher


March 12th, 2014

Top image: George Nelson, American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959

Bubble Lamps, ca. 1952

Developed by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany and presented in Hong Kong by Herman Miller Asia Pacific, the exhibition George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher, explores the visionary work of influential American designer George Nelson (1908 – 1986), who was not only a leading designer and notable architect, but also a prominent author, editor, lecturer, exhibition designer, and a passionate photographer.

(Left) Rosewood Miniature Cases, 1952. (Right) Comprehensive Storage System, 1959

Geroge Nelson
(Left) Fairchild House, 1940/41. (Right) Action Office I, 1964

Trained as an architect with a degree from Yale, Nelson was one of the defining figures of American design in the latter half of the twentieth century. As design director at Herman Miller from 1947 to 1972, Nelson had a major influence on the product line and public image of the company for over two decades. He also introduced the world to a new generation of American designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi, while producing a number of iconic furniture pieces – like the Coconut Chair and Marshmallow Sofa – as well as all the collateral and graphics for the company. During his tenure at Herman Miller, Nelson was a prominent innovator in the development of the modern office environment including his L-shaped desk as the forerunner of the workstation (1947), Action Office (1964), and Nelson Workspaces (1977).

George Nelson
Swaged Leg Chair (1954) and Swaged Leg Desk (1958)

In his many essays on design, Nelson was one of the most prominent voices among his peers in reflecting on the working conditions, duties and objectives of his profession at a time when the field and its image were still in the formative years.

(Left) Coconut Chairs and Ottoman, 1956. (Right) Florence plastic dinnerware, 1952

Nelson’s conception of design as a system, his approach that went beyond mere styling – always taking into consideration the greater nexus of interrelated interests and concerns – as well as his achievements in the teaching of design, give his work particular relevance and appeal in today’s context.

Geroge Nelson
Marshmallow Sofa, 1956

At George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher, visitors will get to see some of his signature works such as the Marshmallow Sofa, Bubble Lamp and Pretzel Chair, as well as examples of the company brochures and writings he created.

George Nelson
Ball Clock, 1948

Photos © Vitra Design Museum archive

The exhibition will be held at HKDI Gallery from 14 March to 2 June 2014. For more information, visit

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed