From email, texting and the internet, to mobile phones, PDAs, DVDs, search engines and MP3 files, our daily lives are filed with new tools, systems and networks which would have seemed inconceivable twenty years ago. These new technologies have transformed the way we lead our lives and designers, such as the Bouroullec brothers in France and Hella Jongerius and Jurgen Bey in the Netherlands, have responded by developing new types of furniture.
PlayStation Chair, 2000
Polyurethane foam, vinyl
Production: BRF, Italy
Conceived by the Berlin-based designer Jerszy Seymour (1968-) as a comfortable armchair-cum-chaise longue, the PlayStation Chair combines a soft, circular seat with an upholstered leg rest on which you can rest your legs while watching television, or position a Sony PlayStation console to play a video game. Like many of Seymour’s designs, the PlayStation Chair has a playful appearance that belies its underlying practicality. These qualities are reflected in his other designs: from the Muff Daddy denim beanbag seat with long arms that literally embrace the sitter, to the Freewheelin’ Franklin table mounted on the motor of a remote controlled model car.
Glide Sofa, 2001
Polyurethane foam, stainless steel
Production: Cappellini, Italy
While the old school of modernist designers developed finished objects which they intended to be used in a particular way, the French brother Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec ( 1971- and 1976-) are part of the new generation of post-industrial designers who want their work to have a life of its own determined by the user. Typical is the Glide Sofa developed by the Bouroullecs for the Italian manufacturer Cappellini. Combining the conventional seat of a sofa with an extended leg rest, the Glide can be sat or lounged upon. It also has a useful shelf attached to its back for storing books, DVDs, games consoles and any of the other objects that often clutter up the floor.
Folding Air-Chair, 2001
Production: Magis, Italy
Jasper Morrison (1959-) conceived the idea of the Folding Air-Chair when sitting on an old-fashioned wooden folding chair at a local residents’ meeting. “At the end the chairs were folded up so quickly and stacked into such a small space that I finally understood the benefits." He devised the chair – an addition to the gas injected moulded polypropylene Air furniture he had developed for Magis since 1999 – to be “assembled in seconds" from three pieces of moulded polypropylene connected with pivoting pins. Morrison believes that the application of advanced plastic moulding technology “brings new life to a tired typology" making it suitable for use when a wooden or metal folding chair might seem incongruous.
Repeat Sofa, 2002
Cotton, viscose, polyurethane foam, stainless steel
Production: Maharam Textiles, US and Paola Lenti, Italy
A concern of the Dutch designer Hella Jongerius (1963-) is to imbue industrially produced objects with the character traditionally associated with hand-crafted pieces. When commissioned to develop an upholstery fabric for Maharam, the US textile manufacturer, she achieved this by manipulating the repetitions in the pattern. Scouring Maharam’s archive for motifs, Jongerius replicated a series of dots, pixels, pinpricks and dogtooth checks in the form of the Jacquard cards, which are punched with the data that programmes the looms. Each pattern sequence varies in length and is never repeated before three metres to ensure that even if several chairs are upholstered in the fabric, each will look distinctive.
Yogi outdoor furniture, 2002
Production: Magis, Italy
Yogi forms parts of the British-born designer Michael Young’s experiments with plastic rotation moulding for Magis, the Italian plastic products manufacturer. Invited to design a new collection of outdoor furniture “with a smile on its face", Young (1966-) created the engagingly cartoonish Yogi sofa, chair and table. Each Yogi piece is deliberately positioned low on the ground so that children can slip on comfortably, but adults feel incongruous as they sink down on to it. “Yogi places you in a vaguely humorous predicament and forces you to relax," said Young. “You can’t take yourself too seriously."
Chair Mari, 2003
Extruded aluminium, plywood
Production: Gebruder Thonet, Austria
To the veteran Italian designer and design theorist Enzo Mari (1932-) , the perfect chair is one in an “anonymous" style which uses the minimum possible material to act as robust, comfortable seat. When he was invited by Gebrüder Thonet, the Austrian furniture maker, to develop a contemporary version of the bent tubular steel chairs it has produced since the 1920s, Mari decided to replace the steel with a light resilient tubular metal – extruded aluminium – supporting a bent and painted plywood seat. Produced in a various versions, with and without arms and as a rocker, Chair Mari is light, compact and easily portable. Some versions also stack efficiently.
Cabbage Chair, 2008
Production: Nendo Inc, Tokyo
Nendo designed the cabbage chair for XXIst Century Man exhibition curated by Issey Miyake to commemorate the first anniversary of 21_21 Design Sight in Roppongi, Tokyo. "Miyake asked us to make furniture out of the pleated paper that is produced in mass amounts during the process of making pleated fabric, and usually abandoned as an unwanted by-product. Our solution to his challenge transformed a roll of pleated paper into a small chair that appears naturally as you peel away its outside layers, one layer at a time. Resins added during the original paper production process adds strength and the ability to remember forms, and the pleats themselves give the chair elasticity and a springy resilience, for an overall effect that looks almost rough, but gives the user a soft, comfortable seating experience."
Stitch Chair, 2008
The Stitch Chair, launched by Cappellini during the Milan Furniture Fair in 2008, demonstrates a unique mechanism for fold-away furniture, taking up as little space as possible. The hinges are an aesthetic feature as much as a technical one and the choice of bright colours add to its character.