I’ve been kind of obsessed with chairs for around a decade-and-a-half.
I can’t remember if it started when I got a copy of 100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection, or if I got the book because the seeds of my obsession had already started to sprout.
In fact, I’m surprised this hasn’t cropped up on the blog before.
Chairs are like bad backs and strokes in that, once you’ve experienced them – really experienced them – you realise that they’re everywhere. I mean, of course they’re everywhere; they’re chairs. But in a deeper way than that.
Of course, part of that is self-perpetuating. This week, Mrs Stroke sent me a link to this:
What she actually sent me was an article that began like this:
Design doesn’t always have to be so serious – the article on design-milk began – and taking that direction is London-based designer Veega Tankun, who just recently launched the brand veegadesign.
Is design usually serious? Maybe, but it’s a mistake to suggest that one can’t be playfully serious or seriously playful. What struck me when I first read 100 Masterpieces was that the objects on which we sat during the Twentieth Century were like a story of modern human thought, even looking forward into the current century.
So it is that the book is split into six sections – Technology, Construction, Reduction, Organic Design, Decoration, and Manifesto. Falling among the various sections are Modernist chairs, Utilitarian chairs, Postmodern chairs, Pop chairs, Deconstructivist chairs.
Sori Yanagi’s Butterfly (above) uses the plywood molding technique made famous by Ray and Charles Eames. 100 Masterpieces also inspired a (so far) life-long obsession with the work of the Eameses, who took the experience they had gained during World War II in molding three-dimensional plywood as the starting point of a mission to bring low-cost, well-designed, mass-produced furniture within the reach of all classes.
Anyone who’s ever pined (or ply-wooded – sorry!) for an Eames item will know how that panned out. We’ve just about managed to stretch to a couple of Eames DAR chairs. Together with the legendary Eames Lounge chair, they feature in a science fiction story set around thirty years from now that I’ve written and is waiting for a home somewhere it will be appreciated. The chairs were meant to signify a certain kind of optimistic affluence that was already feeling ripe for satire in October 2015.
I suppose they also worked as a metaphor for a story in which humanity was being up-designed to be more functional and things weren’t going to work out so well.
Chairs blipped onto my radar again this week when Paul Priestman, chairman of the transport design company Priestman Goode, explained to Radio 4’s Today programme (don’t worry, I’m still a Good Morning Scotland man first) his plans to change the way we sit on trains.
Like a classic pop single, it’s a really interesting three minutes to hear Paul Priestman talk about seating on public transport from a design perspective
…the conception of seating is changing… seating is the new smoking… selfish society… teenagers don’t sit anymore… they lean, they perch, they slouch…. Is the old seat non-relevant… a little bit more democratic seat…. When is a seat not a seat?
Once again, I’m reminded that I need to read George Nelson’s How To See. In fact, before 1 January, I’m going to sit down and plan out twenty-six books I have to read during 2017 and calendar them. Maybe all that fodder will make for a more interesting blog…
Maybe all that reading will lead to some adaptation as things are adapting all around us. In the meantime though, enjoy Christmas or Chanukah or any other winter solstice-y celebrations you enjoy. There will be plenty of time for 2017 soon enough.
Lots of love to all y’all,