In 1985, Steelcase stepped into the history logs of the Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his famed Prairie Style architecture and design, and changed the course of the space forever. Research and restoration took 2 years, and the company was able to recover from the community all but an astounding 2 pieces of furniture to return the house to its original and intended state. Fast forward 24 years, 100 years after its inception in 1909, the Meyer May House and Wright are the focus on which a number of design luminaries, design editors and 500 guests are gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Next 100, a thoughtful symposium organized by Steelcase, focused on Wright’s design genius with moderator Susan Szenasy, editor in chief of Metropolis magazine and panelists Bob Adams, design strategist with IDEO; Jeffrey Bernett, industrial designer; Shashi Caan, of The Shashi Caan Collective; Dr. Andrew Dent of Material ConneXion; Toshiko Mori, FAIA, of Toshiko Mori Architect; Kristie Strasen, of Place Textiles; and Michael Van Valkenburgh, landscape architect.
The panelists were privileged to an intimate dinner at the house, and shared with symposium attendees their take on the timeless nature of Wright’s design. With a focus on the human element in all his design, “Wright thought about the life experience,” said Bernett about the furniture. “The dining chairs look as uncomfortable as church pews, but the lighting, the size of the table and the dimensions of the room, were all perfect for interaction. Once we sat down at that table, we enjoyed conversation for hours. Once we sat down, the experience was no longer about the house, but about the people you were in the house with.” A sentiment that rang true throughout the panel, and extended to the experience that Steelcase provided to celebrate an architect and house that has the longevity to endure the next 100 years.