The Wow Factor
Judith Davidsen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The fiberglass cones suspended from the ceiling were meant to shock, diverting attention from unattractive ducts and unwieldy columns. And to serve as arrows directing attention to the products at the Chicago Merchandise Mart showroom designed by Chermayeff & Geismar for the General Fireproofing Company.
Painted in a variety of shapes, in differing combinations of saturated colors, and reaching down to 42 inches above the floor, the cones were inescapable—it was a case of walking with one's head in the cubist clouds. They could be rotated to generate a wealth of shadow patterns, depending on adjustments to the track lighting, and to produce the best chromatic arrangements for a given display. (The office furniture sold in 1970 was produced by a company that had begun in 1902 as a manufacturer of building materials and switched in 1907 to furniture; a name change to GF Office Furniture occurred in 1990.)
The cones really popped against a background of white wool carpet, which covered not only the floor but also the walls and ceiling. Ivan Chermayeff described the desired effect as "something that visitors would remember and talk about when they left."