UNO is basically an archetypical chair – in profile, an ‘L’ shape with two legs. To make the aesthetic appearance as ‘basic’ and instinctively recognisable as possible, Bartoli even coupled the geometric rigidity with the use of bold primary colors, black and white, thus obtaining a result that seems to recall the De Stijl experiments of the beginning of 20th century. 

The final result is visually pleasing, and purposefully breathes out cleanness, precision, care for quality and detail. When you look at UNO, you are basically bound to think that it is a nicely designed chair, another clear-cut minimal, essential item, and also, one on which you would rather not have to sit on for a long time!

Yet, when you come to actually use it, UNO presents you with a great surprise. Its surface is soft and flexible, and it gently accommodates your body like a padded seat.

In the light of this, Bartoli’s design choice becomes immediately clear. What matters, in UNO, is not the form, but the ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ experience that you will feel when using it.

In other words, UNO is not a design statement, but a showcase of what is possible when coupling engineering, materials and design research under one umbrella.

This is quite a unique happening within the furniture industry – traditionally characterised by a strong focus on researching design, materials, and finishes firstly from an aesthetic point of view, and then, only secondly, from the ‘experiential’ perspective.

The ‘out of the ordinary’ experience that UNO presents us with is made possible by the use of R606, an innovative material that was originally developed for the automotive industry and that has been restudied by Segis in collaboration with Renzo Faucinetti Engineering studio with the purpose of finding a suitable application within the furniture industry – not only at prototype but also at manufacturing and production level.

Within the industry of seating furniture, research on materials is traditionally focused on two axes. On the one hand, there are rigid products – made of metal, wood or thermoplastics.

They allow for diversity in the areas of form and finishes but always maintain the characteristic rigidity and sturdiness. These products tend to appeal to the contract industry – especially within public places such as bars, restaurants or waiting rooms where durability and resistance to shock is of prime importance.

On the other side of the research spectrum, there are the foam-based products that feature the opposite characteristics, and hence appeal to a different kind of market – mainly the domestic one. These are normally padded solutions, therefore soft and comfortable, but not quite as robust as the rigid products.

R606 is an outer ‘skin’, chemically characterised by very compact cells, and a high specific weight and density.

This chemical composition allows for an excellent degree of resistance to mechanical and traction forces and for creating a ‘memory of the form’ that is impressed on the ‘skin’ – which means, basically, that when you sit on it, this material registers the pressure that your weight forces on it, and adapts itself to it by bending.

One of the characteristics of high density is also the capacity to absorb kinetic energy in the eventuality of a shock – even a strong one.

The real innovative element of R606 is the fact that this outer, rigid ‘skin’ can be thoroughly embedded with a padded ‘support’, hence creating, out of two materials, a third one that is hard on the surface yet soft to touch.

In essence, R606 is the furniture equivalent of the human skin. Like our skin, R606 is resistant to atmospheric elements, to a wide array of acids that are commonly used (the ones that are present in lemon, or coca cola, for example) and to scratches. Furthermore it is also resistant to UVA rays, it is non toxic, and extremely easy to clean and recycle.

The characteristics of R606 are not only innovative within the furniture industry. A material with similar characteristics has been researched within the automotive industry but no possible application has actually been developed.

This is due to the difficulty of producing such material on an industrial scale. Understanding the potential of being able to join the ‘rigid’ and the ‘soft’ element within the furniture industry, Segis has invested in researching the ways in which to further develop this material and to make it easy to produce.

The production process that Segis utilises is now patented and it is what makes R606 and UNO truly innovative from an application point of view. A urethane-foam base is joined, through a single cold injection, with the R606 skin, to make one single element out of both.

Segis is not new to research. Founded in 1983, the small Tuscan company grew quickly and steadily also through the collaboration with Carlo Bartoli, who art directed its work almost since its beginnings. Segis’ tables and seating are flanked by an especially contract-focused production of upholstered goods, appreciated both in Europe and in the United States. Since the late 90s, Segis has joined forces with Delight and Multipla – the former active in the area of furnishing accessories and the latter in that of wooden seating.

Together, the group centres its work on research on original and elegant design, quality care and on the use of innovative materials and technologies.

Research at Segis is carried out by a small research and development team that works on materials, production technologies, development of new finishes and mechanical resistance techniques – always keeping an eye out for the commercial potential of their findings.

R606 is very likely to have a great impact within the furniture industry, and beyond, from protective clothing design to the design of electronics, and possible applications in the automotive industry. 

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Richard Hoare

Richard Hoare

Richard Hoare is one of Australia’s leading industrial designers with an impressive track record that includes putting Sunbeam design on the map and now taking the Breville design centre toward a global vision.

US insight gains momentum back home

US insight gains momentum back home

With ten years experience in product design at GE Fitch design consultancy in Boston, Craig Andrews has returned to Australia to establish Design Momentum in Sydney. The company will specialise in medical product design.

Cross cultural teamwork

Cross cultural teamwork

Australian design company, Blue Sky Creative, has joined forces with China’s Qian Jiang Motor Company to design a motorscooter to compete with the big global names of Vespa, Peugot and Italjet.

Form language

Form language

Swedish designer Katja Pettersson works across the realms of product design, art and social responsibility to create work that questions our relationships to the objects that populate our lives.