Phaidon.com spoke to three leading designers about their thoughts on the chair as an object for designers, which classic designs they found inspiring and how they have approached chair design in their own work.
'Chairs are an infinite source of potential to explore material, structure, technology and form....all related to the human body and its elevation.
I have always liked the Panton Chair (1968, Vernon Panton) if only because it's an holistic, single form, single material, single technology chair that even when laid on its side it retains its sculptural purity.
The Supernatural Chair for Moroso (2005) explored the true nature of Organic Essentialism, whereby its conceptual driver was economy, lightness, liquidity and resourcefulness using state of the art contemporary polymer technology.'
'There is a lot given in a chair, which makes it a good thing for designers. Though I think you can argue that people said almost everything there is to say about chairs in the ‘50s. Jacobsen, Saarinen, Bertoia. Their job was a lot easier, because they had a lot to rebel against. Until then things were super-traditional, so they attacked it from all directions. They invented the cantielevered chair and the Panton chair (which must have been 'wow, we can do a chair by folding just one plate.') So the challenge for contemporary designers is to find things that haven't been done before.
I own a Saarinen Womb Chair (1948) that is as advanced as any chair you’re likely to see.
I was commissioned to do a sculpture for the centre of Milan many years ago and used the commission as an excuse to manufacture a prototype of the Tom Vac chair (1997) by including it in the design of the Totem. I wanted to test a technology that was used for in aerospace design. It would have been too expensive to make a chair out of it so I used the finance for the sculpture to make the tooling. When the design took off we developed a version using injection-moulded plastic.'
'All of the great artists, designers, and even architects who had made history created chairs as iconic piece that embodies one's thought. I intentionally design chairs in order to deliver my message to people. Since chairs are familiar to us, I think chairs would become my message for the future and would be able to encourage communication with people.
Honey-pop (2001) obtained its strength from its honeycombed structure that was created by unfolding a number of layered thin papers. Similar to the structures in flowers and plants, which systemise small fibers to increase strength, the Pane chair (bread chair) (2006) realised a flexible seating structure out of fibre. More recently, I pondered on challenging the history of design by creating a chair grown from natural crystal structures, and Venus (Natural crystal chair) (2008) was born. We put a block of soft polyester fibre in a huge aquarium containing a solution of special minerals. Natural crystal begins to form on the structure of the polyester fibre and continues a gradual growth until the chair is completed. Half of the production of Venus is guided by myself, and the other half is made by Mother Nature. This unpredictable element makes me feel the serendipitous beauty in nature.'