Take Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s new chair for Vitra, purposefully designed for schools. It took one minute to figure out the need and the type of solution that it required, but months to give it a proper shape and to turn it into an industrially viable (and cheap enough) product.
It was during an architectural job (the evaluation of the furniture specifications for a school sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts in the UK) that the British duo realised that when it came to chairs for education, the panorama was rather desolate.
“The RSA had selected some really beautiful chairs by top-notch manufacturers,” explains Barber. “But these had not been designed for making students hold a correct writing posture, and they were too expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, there were lots of affordable, functional, robust products, but they were inherently extremely ugly. We thought: there must be a good school chair somewhere. We did a lot of research, but there simply wasn’t. So we decided to design it.”
The Swiss manufacturer of high-end furniture, Vitra, listened with enthusiasm to Barber and Osgerby’s idea of making an affordable, extremely strong and very ergonomic chair specifically conceived for schools.
“When you sit at a desk, you need to keep your back upright at all times,” Osgerby explains. “Yet people always feel the need to move and adjust on the chair, and often they actually put themselves forward (hence, making the chair stand on the mere front legs).”
This ‘fidgeting’ has a very important role in pupils’ lives (scientific research proves that it actually helps concentration), yet only very costly office chairs have so far tackled the issue. “But those are full of mechanical parts and too expensive for schools,” says Osgerby.
Their solution was, on the contrary, extremely cost-effective. Manufactured with plastic injection moulding and featuring no mechanisms.
Curve Issue thirty-five, 2011
‘True simplicity’ by Laura Traldi
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