A bentrod or plane of wood, metal, paper, or plastic has greater strength than a flat one. From the early nineteenth century to the present day, furniture designers have exploited both the sensuality and strength of curved materials. Gerald Summers’s lounge chair (ca. 1934) is made from a single piece of plywood. Designed for use in tropical climates, the chair lacks joinery and upholstery, helping it endure extremes of temperature and humidity. Carlo Mollino’s tea table (ca. 1950) consists of a sinuous plane of bent plywood stabilized by two planes of glass. Openings in the wood diminish its weight while providing structural ribbing. Charles and Ray Eames furthered the complexity of the curve, using double contours (as in a potato chip) to yield beauty, strength, and comfort. Their fiberglass-reinforced La Chaise (1948) is named after Gaston La Chaise’s 1927 sculpture Reclining Nude, a study in exaggerated femininity. Verner Panton’s Stacking Side Chair (1960) combines seat, back, and legs in one curved form; it was one of the first chairs produced from a single piece of synthetic material.
Designers have continued to experiment with bentwood as well as plastic. In Wood Chair by Marc Newson (1988), two dozen strips of wood are fastened along a set of horizontal slats to create a bulging plane that passes through itself to create the seat, back, and supporting legs.