When Philippe Starck unveiled the Masters Chair at IMM Cologne this year, it symbolized the acknowledgement by the designer that the ultimate chair silhouettes have already been created. The design is a tip of the hat to the now iconic chair designs of Jacobsen, Eames, and Saarinen, featuring the outline of three classic chairs. The challenge of creating a new chair silhouette is one that many designers struggle with while manufacturers are looking to continue to innovate the seating category with new forms and improved ergonomics.
Fast forward to NeoCon, an annual marketplace for contract seating and furnishings held in Chicago this past week. Every year contract furniture manufacturers taut their latest chair designs at the show. The contract market is perfectly positioned for innovations in seating as products in the category must be durable, attractive, and most importantly ergonomic. After all, other than your bed, your desk chair is the second most frequent piece of furniture you use on a daily basis. This year, designers are reinventing the chair, taking the backrest out of the composition or segmenting the seat into several floating sections. The following is a selection of innovative chair designs launched at NeoCon 2011.
Davis Furniture won a number of awards at NeoCon, including 3 Gold awards and one Silver. The Ginkgo Chair, designed by Jehs and Laub was among the award winners. I recently spoke to Rob Easton, Design Director of Davis Furniture about their new releases at NeoCon this year and asked him about the development of the Ginkgo Chair. According to Easton, the designers wanted to create a new classic plywood shell occasional chair. He then described the process of reviewing an anthology of plywood shell chairs that came before.
"We took a Series 7 Chair (by Arne Jacobsen) and really dissected it. We said "Let's not make this," meaning the goal of the project was to pay homage to the design without ripping it off." - Rob Easton, Design Director of Davis Furniture
According to Mr. Easton, Davis aims to innovate with every new design, a daunting task in plywood shell chairs. With the Ginkgo Chair, the focus was on the silhouette all the way to the edges. The shell is thicker at critical points of the structure, and thins to about 3/8" at the edges, giving the chair a provocative new silhouette among plywood shell chairs. The chair is available with a chrome or wood base and in an upholstered version.
Other innovative chair designs launched at NeoCon this year were a bit more radical. The Chakra Chair by Karim Rashid explodes the seat and backrest into perfectly positioned segments. The chair is designed to enhance wellness after a long day of sitting by supporting the body's charkas, or pressure points. The Shun Chair by China based Asis reduces the backrest into a small lower-spine support to create a variety of unique straddling or sitting positions.
Renowned furniture designers will continue to innovate contract seating by refining proven chair forms and experimenting with the act of sitting to better serve the imperatives of the contract market; style and performance.