“A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.”
-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
I view the chair as both a challenge and an incredible opportunity. The design of a chair can be as complex or as simple as the designer desires. I firmly believe in the act of making and find courses such as Wood Design to be an invaluable tool for architecture students. The act of making strengthens the designer’s ability to think through their hands, a skill that has progressively diminished with the advent of computer aided design. The scale of a piece of furniture provides tangibility that isn’t present in most studios. There is a intimate understanding and clarity offered by drawing to scale and creating/testing full-sized mock-ups; each line draw is more carefully considered.
During my undergraduate studies in interior design I became an admirer of almost all mid-century Danish furniture pieces, specifically anything designed by Hans Wegner. I chose to design a Wegner-inspired chair for myself and created a brief program: function = side chair, portable, arm rests, fairly upright – not a lounge chair, two materials, comfort/ergonomics, and a structure composed entirely of wood - no hardware.
The final chair design is a simplified form consisting of only necessary elements with a highly expressive profile. In contrast to Wegner’s sculptural, more “organic” forms, the chair’s lines and angles are assertive and distinct. The profile is composed of two primary structural members: the back leg and the front leg, which folds to become the arm rest. In order for these two members to read as individual entities joined together, a distinct feature became the disconnected, or floating armrest. During final review this design decision was amusingly called “an act of hubris”. Texas pecan was selected for its marble-like composition and interesting color variation along with the specie’s inherent strength and reliability. The entire piece is connected by floating tenons and mortise and tenon joints. Danish cord was a clear choice as the secondary material. I wanted a material to soften the striking lines of the profile and that would allow flexion when interacting with the human body. The curved slots enable the cord to weave through and around the structural members, interacting with the wood instead of merely acting as an application. The actual curve of the slots mimic the deflected form created by the weight of a sitting body. The rails that connect the two profiles are also constructed of the same curve offering an ergonomic experience. The comfort and function of a chair takes a great deal of testing and refinement. I found the “sitting experience” to be a highly individual preference. Now that the chair is complete, there are of course many adjustments I would make, but that’s exactly what this course was about for me. Learning by doing, learning through making. Hans Wegner said it best, “The chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."