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6/14/2010 Houston, TX–For the past decade, the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has assisted the MFAH in building a collection of architect-designed objects in all media. The AIA Houston Design Collection at the MFAH will be showcased in an exhibition celebrating this unique partnership; Form Follows Function: Celebrating 10 Years of the American Institute of Architects Design Collection at the MFAH opens August 8, 2010 and runs through January 30, 2011. The collaboration is the only one of its kind in the United States and has evolved over the years from an early endeavor to simply acquire architect-designed objects into its current form, in which the AIA Houston chapter annually honors the lifetime achievements of a prominent Houston architect and the museum acquires a major work that reflects the honoree’s interests. The partnership and exhibition brings public attention to objects designed by architects and allows local architects to connect with the museum.

On December 7, 2010, more than 300 Houston architects will gather at the museum’s Caroline Wiess Law Building, where the 2010 AIA honoree will be celebrated. Guests will also view the exhibition and to see the unveiling of this year’s acquisition.

―Art and architecture have long gone hand-in-hand and the unique collaboration between the MFAH and the Houston chapter of the AIA allows architect-designed objects to be showcased and celebrated in the context of the museum’s rich collections,said MFAH director Dr. Peter C. Marzio.
Form Follows Function showcases the diversity of objects designed by architects over the past century and highlights how architects have contributed to the evolution of style and to technical innovation in design.

―Architects involved in the design of objects are not a new phenomenon, but there has been a renewed focus in the modern and contemporary period," said Cindi Strauss, MFAH curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design. ―In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, architects designed total environments, from the building itself to its interior furnishings. Today, architects are often hired by firms to design objects that stand alone."

―The MFAH’s collection has led to a growing recognition of the diverse talents of architects within the public realms, and it has brought our members an increasing awareness of the museum, "said AIA Houston executive director Barry Scardino. ―For the past five years, attendance at the annual December gathering has increased every year, as have donations towards the acquisition of more significant pieces. We expect that this interest and enthusiasm will continue and that the collection will grow in influence not just in Houston but throughout the country."

To date, the partnership has raised more than $250,000 toward the acquisition of more than 25 objects for the collection, including furniture, metalwork, and industrial design. In addition, the museum has received numerous gifts for the collection from Houston-based architect design firms, including furniture by Frank Gehry and Sally Walsh and objects by John Pawson and Ettore Sottsass. Six Houston-based architects have been honored during the last decade: Martha Murphree, former AIA executive director; S.I. Morris, founder of Morris Architects; Anderson Todd, professor at the Rice University School of Architecture; John Chase, the first African-American to be licensed as an architect in the state of Texas; Preston Bolton, founder of his own firm and previous partner at Barnstone and Bolton; and William Pena, architect and author from CRS.
From the beginning, the MFAH and AIA Houston sought to acquire objects dating from 1890 to the present that were international and reflected a range of aesthetic styles and

technical innovations. As a result, the collection now contains objects from Italy, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, Hungary, Denmark, England, and the United States, designed by renowned architects such as Gae Aulenti, Peter Behrens, Andrea Branzi, Marcel Breuer, Sir Norman Foster, William Lescaze, Michele de Lucchi, and Gerrit Rietveld.

Form Follows Function highlights include:
A rare Manhattan Cocktail Set (1937) by industrial design visionary Norman Bel Geddes alludes to the iconic skyscraper and was designed for Americans swept up in the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles. The set was one of the first AIA purchases for the MFAH, entering the collection in 2001.
Belgian furniture designer Maarten van Severen achieved recognition with minimal, lightweight furniture designs, and his LCP Chair (Low Plastic Chair) (2003) was made from flexible PMMA plastic that folds onto itself and is attached by springs. The neon yellow chair is lightweight and transparent, and evokes the style of both the 1970s and today.
Sitzmaschine, Model 670 (c. 1905) was the first
object that the MFAH purchased in recognition of
an AIA honoree. Designed by Austrian architect
and designer Josef Hoffman, renowned as a
founding member of the Wiener Werkstätte, this
architectonic, reclining armchair was
commissioned to seat ailing patients at a nursing
home near Vienna. It originally had cushions for
both the seat and back, and both the geometric
square cutouts and the wooden balls found at the
feet and joints are hallmarks of Hoffmann’s
designs. Only a small number of chairs were made
in two-toned finish.

Tea and Coffee Piazza Service (1985), designed by
legendary Italian architect and designer Aldo
Rossi, was manufactured by Alessi. Rossi was one of the founders of the Neo-Rationalist movement and is widely considered to be the greatest Italian architect of the second half of the 20th century. Working in a severe language of primary shapes and geometric patterns, the service mirrors his architectural style and acts as a landscape for the table. The coffeepot, teapot, creamer, sugar bowl, and teaspoon can all be housed under a ―piazza, or colonnaded porch, complete with whimsical flag mounted atop the roof.