Michael Townsend is an associate in the San Francisco headquarters of Gensler, a global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm. He is also behind a photo shoot that involved taking the Setu chair all over the city of San Francisco. “We were actually approached by Pivot Interiors and our local Herman Miller representatives about a competition they were hosting between a handful of local design firms called ‘Where’s Setu?’.” The competition guidelines were simple. ‘Setu is designed to fit all shapes and sizes. But, equally important, Setu is designed to fit virtually all spaces and places. YOUR MISSION is to take the chair and photograph it ANYWHERE! Use wardrobe, props, celebrities, back-drops, story lines and of course, location! location! location! Show us how Setu fits into your life’
“Essentially we were tasked with celebrating the idea of an “everywhere chair”! A small group of us that included Melissa Mizell, Rebecca Ruggles and Annie Book here at Gensler have really enjoyed working together in the past on the USGBC’s Sustainable Suites Competition as well as a packaging re-purposing design competition, so we jumped at the challenge. Not only are they fantastic ways to stretch ourselves creatively but they also lead us into research and design thinking in fields that we may not get much exposure to in our daily work.”
Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind the shoot? We embarked with the original plan of re-enacting some of our favorite movie scenes set in San Francisco with Setu as the lead role. With screen captures such as Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” or James Stewart and Kim Novak at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge in “Vertigo”, we loaded Setu in the company van and began to drive across the city. We made it halfway to our first stop before noticing an airstream trailer on the side of the road with the words “everywhere tour” painted on the side. It would have been downright irresponsible to not photograph the “everywhere chair” on the “everywhere tour”, so we stopped for a photoshoot. In the process, we met representatives of Threadless Tees, a fantastic company supporting great graphic design as well as partnering with the likes of Architecture for Humanity to support disaster relief efforts.
This was a tipping point for us and we all agreed we would likely build a better photo story just letting the beauty and randomness of city present itself to us. With only a loose plan, we set out to photograph the chair as if it were an integral part of the variety and energy that makes this place so great. Stopping in the marina green, we worked up the nerve to ask the Baracus Rugby Club to humor us by mixing the chair into their practice time. Our second day started at Dolores Park where we loved the character of the girls on the green bench and the nonchalant attitude they had in letting Setu join them for a smoke.
Our last stop was in Clarion Alley in the Mission, which has an incredible array of street art in a district famous for its murals. There happened to be a vibrant trio being photographed in parallel to us who were more than happy to pose for a few shots with the chair.
We really feel like the warmth and spirit of the people and locations we visited tie perfectly with the intent of approachability and versatility of the Setu chair. Not only did we have a lot of fun doing it, but we also found out that it is possible to clean a wide range of grass, mud and dog stains from a stark white Setu chair!”