The last thing designer Marcel Wanders wants to be is boring. “There’s enough of that in life,” he says. “I’m interested in designing things that excite people and make them feel alive.” With a chair made out of knots and a chandelier called Happy Hour in his portfolio, Wanders is certainly on the right track.
For the Troy Chair, designed for Magis, Wanders created an intricate pattern inspired by the lush motifs of damask fabrics. The pattern, molded into the back of the chair’s plywood seat, imparts the modern profile with a romantic sensibility. The result is elegant, and, explains Wanders, a “lovely balance between new and old.”
Wanders’ prolific body of work, ranging from fashion accessories to lavish hotels, is represented in museums around the world, including the Museums of Modern Art in both New York and San Francisco and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
His design for Spun—a chair shaped like a spinning top that tilts and turns with the sitter’s movement—is emblematic of the fanciful yet functional designs in London-based architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick’s portfolio: the Olympic Cauldron at the 2012 London games, a double decker bus, also for London, and Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan Hotel.
When asked to design a structure for the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Heatherwick created the Seed Cathedral—sixty thousand fiber-optic “hairs” protruding from a circular steel and timber composite structure. While some consider the structure—which looks like a giant, glowing hedgehog—simply another example of Heatherwick’s whimsical approach to design, the artist is quick to point out that the piece is actually quite serious.
“Is my studio’s work playful or is everyone else’s work too serious?” says Heatherwick in an interview with Architectural Digest. “And actually, Seed Cathedral was serious. With 60,000 varieties of seeds, it was the most biodiverse thing in Shanghai, or the whole region.”
Considering Heatherwick’s belief that good design strikes a balance between gravity and levity, it’s little wonder that Spun challenges the traditional notion of a chair and turns sitting into an experience.
“Why did you become a designer?” “Because I love building things,” says Konstantin Grcic. Interior Design recently picked the brain of the Chair_One creator with its 10 Questions…. Here are four that we found interesting:
Interior Design: Why did you become a designer? Because I love building things. When I was 19 years old, I did an apprenticeship for a cabinetmaker and I became intrigued. I discovered that I could create or rethink the things I built. I enrolled at the RCA (Royal Academy of Arts) in London.
What does design mean to you?
That’s an impossible question. You could write a book or say something really stupid. What do you most like to design?
The physical scale of furniture attracts me. It’s what I’m good at. And it’s what I really like. Where do you get inspiration?
KG: It comes from everywhere—from daily life.
The meaning of Magis—”more than”—captures the Italian company’s approach to design and manufacturing. “We add to Herman Miller because we are complementare, complementary,” explains Alberto Perazza, Co-Managing Director of Magis. “Even a world apart, we do the business of design in similar ways. Both companies have many and continuing collaborations with the greatest world designers.”
Much like Herman Miller, Magis employs innovative processes that maximize performance, while minimizing volume of material, energy use, and environmental impact.
Utilizing the metal stamping and bending processes used to shape classic European cars, the brothers were able to create the gentle refinement they desired. The steel and wood components slowly develop a patina of use, giving the chair a character that changes with time.
Checkout the slideshow to see how a flat sheet of steel is transformed into the frame of the Steelwood chair.
For designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, “creativity does not come from a rational point of view but an emotional one. Design is about finding a certain balance or character when you are looking for solutions to problems that are difficult to solve.”
The Bouroullec’s intention when designing the Steelwood furniture group for Magis, was to find an affordable alternative to plastic, “We needed to reduce the complexity of wood assembling, so we kept our design simple,” says Ronan. Something that said, “’I am a well-constructed, beautiful object, one that will last a long time, and will grow old quite nicely with you.’ Not just something people use, but are happy to have around them.”
Their approach to the Osso chair for Mattiazzi, “…was to let the sensuality of the wood express itself,” says Erwan. “The chair invites people to touch or even caress it, as it is extremely sculpted and polished.”
Brothers, the Paris-based Bouroullecs have been partners in design since the 1990s. Together they have collaborated with companies around the world. Their designs are also part of many international museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Design Museum in London, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
Design is so busy solving problems that we sometimes forget that it’s OK to have fun with it. That certainly isn’t the case with Spun, a design whose sole purpose seems to be bringing smiles to the faces of everyone that sits in it.
Designed by Heatherwick Studio, Spun it looks more like a children’s top than a chair when upright. But lay it on it’s side and Spun becomes a comfortable chair that lets the sitter rock side to side—and best of all—spin around, and around, and around.
Check out the video we made the day Spun arrived at Herman Miller. Enjoy the smiles as people experience it for the first time.
Designer Naoto Fukasawa believes that designers, “don’t think to design the ‘ordinary.’” Normal is too boring. His approach to design is to not overthink an idea, because when we do, “our actions become awkward.”
The Déjà-vu family designed for Magis proves Fukasawa’s contention that “normal” should be anything but boring. Composed of a chair, stool, and table, Déjà-vu feels familiar. A trait that helped earn the Déjá-vu chair an Interior Innovation Award in 2007, and a 2008 nomination for the Designpreis der Bundesrepublik in Germany.
Based in Japan, Fukasawa and his studio design for companies around the global, including Artemide, Boffi, MUJI, and his own electronics brand ±0. He also teaches or lectures at several prestigious Japanese universities.
One of today’s most influential industrial designers, Jasper Morrison is known for his minimalist approach. Throughout his prolific career, he has strived to create simple but functional beauty in everyday objects, from door handles to trays to wristwatches to chairs. He was a pioneer in using gas-injection technology for furniture; the Air Chair he designed for Magis was one of the very first times it had ever been used for that purpose.
“It represented a big shift in the quality of the one-piece plastic chair,” he says. “Previously, plastic chairs were only possible with single wall thicknesses and reinforcing ribs. The gas-injection technology allowed for continuously smooth surfaces.”
Morrison has been featured in many magazines, and he has published several books on the subject of design. His work has been shown in many international museums, and his retail shop in London carries hundreds of well-designed household items from around the world.
The work of Konstantin Grcic is known for its logical thought process, honesty of materials, and respect for production methods. His partnership with Magis led to one of the most interesting and inventive chairs ever created: Chair_One. “This was a wonderful project to work on,” says Grcic, admitting that his relative youth (and naïveté) led him down unexplored pathways with eyes wide open.
“This was possibly the first time ever that such a large die-cast was used for making a chair,” he explains. “It involved a lot of heavy tooling. I decided to break up surfaces into thin sections like branches and let the material flow through the mold to create the shape, which is kind of like a basket or a grid, and very three-dimensional.”
Chair_One now resides in the permanent collections of many prestigious museums including MoMA in New York and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. It joins other Grcic pieces in museum permanent collection, including his Mayday Lamp, produced for Flos in 1999.