HENRY P. GLASS (AUSTRIAN AMERICAN, 1911-2003)
Born on 24 September 1911 in Vienna, Glass was trained as an architect at the Technical University of Vienna from 1929 to 1936. He married Eleanore Christine Knopp in March, 1937. Glass found early success designing interiors and furnishings for Vienna’s bohemian elite until the Anschluss. He was denounced, sent to Dachau, then transferred to Buchenwald, where captors discovered his talents and forced him to design a cemetery for Nazi officers. He was finally released in 1939 through the intervention of his wife at the Gestapo in Berlin. Later during World War II, he assisted the US military by drawing a plan of the camp from memory.
He immigrated to New York City in 1939, worked for Russel Wright and for Gilbert Rohde on the Anthracite Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair. Glass moved to Chicago in 1942, where he worked as a designer of office furniture for the war effort and studied under László Moholy-Nagy and György Kepes at the IIT Institute of Design. He soon established a career as a furniture and product designer, and opened his own design firm, Henry P. Glass Associates at the Furniture Mart in 1946. A William J. Brenner sofa designed by Glass was used on the living room set of the I Love Lucy show during the 1952-53 season.
Henry was a great admirer of R. Buckminster Fuller and he made a deposit on Fuller’s Dymaxion House, a prefabricated structure that could be assembled at any site. When none but two prototypes of this house were built, Henry decided to become the architect of his own passive solar home which was one of the first of its kind in America. The Henry P. Glass House was built in 1948 and it still stands on its original site in Northfield, Illinois.
In addition to running his own industrial design business, Glass convinced the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to create an industrial design department in 1946 where he served as a professor for more than twenty years.
The Henry P. Glass collection in the Ryerson & Burnham Library Archives contains the original manuscript for Glass’s book Design and the Consumer, his teaching lecture notes, product advertisements, brochures, and photographs. Several of his pieces are on permanent display in the American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. His drawings and furniture scale models are much in demand by collectors.
Glass was awarded 52 US patents, of which 29 are referenced online. He was a Fellow of the Industrial Designers Society of America and received numerous other awards.
He died on August 27, 2003, at the age of 91.