Presented with an opportunity to sit in architect Tadao Ando‘s new Dream Chair (above right), manufactured by Carl Hansen & Son, cultural/design writer Witold Rybczynski uses it as fodder for an interesting article about architects and their long history with chair form-making — and why the results have not always been entirely successful as examples of good design.
Because of background, training, and sensibility, furniture designers and architects approach chair design differently. For example, architects are by habit customizers, since each building is a one-off project; production, therefore, is a means to an end. But modern chairs, unlike modern buildings, are mass produced, so manufacturing is an integral part of the design.
Read the whole article over on Architect.
One architect-designed chair that is a success — and considered by many to be an icon of 20th century furniture design — is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair (top left), made by Knoll. In fact, its ubiquity and status as the go-to furniture for offices and other commercial spaces that want to signal “we know good design” hamper the chair’s acceptance by homeowners, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:
As iconic as it is, at 85, the Barcelona Chair might need some new life breathed into it, given how widely it’s perceived—and dismissed—as the tasteful lobby furniture at a classy, modern-but-not-too-modern business. Just 30% of Knoll’s sales of the chair are residential. And designers who place the chair in residences stress the importance of changing the context enough to distance the chair from its waiting-room reputation.
But whether or not the Barcelona Chair is the ne plus ultra of architect-designed-furniture, most agree that it is a comfortable place to sit. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
Images (l-r): Knoll; Adrian Gaut.