Buildings + Chairs: Why do Architects design chairs?
Art3 Minutes Read

Buildings + Chairs: Why do Architects design chairs?

May 18, 2023 Share



What does the Empire State Building and chairs have in common? And no, this isn’t the start of a bad joke.

When we think of architecture, we often envision grand buildings, awe-inspiring structures, and perhaps, for the more discerning enthusiasts, masterplans like the iconic Haussmannian streets of Paris. But amidst the vastness of architectural design, there is a curious intersection: architects designing chairs.

Yes, those seemingly humble and utilitarian pieces of furniture hold a special place in the hearts of architects. But why do architects venture into chair design? What drives them to create these smaller-scale objects when their expertise lies in creating monumental spaces?

Function and Form Integration

One fundamental aspect that unites architecture and chair design is the integration of function and form. Architects are masters of spatial design, constantly considering how people interact with and move within a space. The same principles apply to chairs—their design must be aesthetically pleasing while offering comfort and support to the human body. By designing chairs, architects can explore this intimate relationship between the human form and the built environment on a smaller scale.

Image courtesy of Knoll

Experimental Playground

Designing a chair allows architects to experiment with materials, techniques, and aesthetics in a more immediate and manageable way. While architectural projects can take years to complete, designing a chair provides architects with a quicker creative outlet. It allows them to test ideas, push boundaries, and explore new possibilities. Chairs become an experimental playground where architects can prototype and refine their design concepts before applying them to larger architectural projects.

Manifesting Architectural Philosophy

For architects, chair design is an opportunity to manifest their architectural philosophy and design principles on a more personal and intimate level. Architectural styles often reflect the era in which they are created, and chairs can be seen as condensed expressions of those styles. Architects can imbue their chairs with the same guiding principles that inform their larger architectural works, creating a cohesive design language that extends from buildings to furniture. Every curve, line, and material choice can carry the essence of the architect’s design philosophy.

Image courtesy of Knoll

Human-Centered Design

At the heart of architecture and chair design lies the human experience. Architects understand the importance of creating spaces that enhance the well-being and comfort of individuals. Similarly, designing chairs allows architects to focus on the human scale, ergonomics, and user experience. By crafting chairs, architects can address specific needs and desires, tailoring their designs to suit different body types, usage scenarios, and aesthetic preferences. This human-centered approach is central to both architecture and chair design.

Designing Complete Environments

Architects are known for their ability to shape and design complete environments, considering every aspect of the built environment, from the structure itself to the smallest details. Chairs are integral elements of any space, and by designing them, architects can ensure that every element of an environment harmonizes with their architectural vision. Creating chairs allows architects to craft cohesive spaces where furniture seamlessly integrates with the overall design, enhancing the experience of the occupants.

Exploring Collaborations

Architects are often drawn to collaborations with furniture designers and manufacturers. These collaborations provide architects with the opportunity to bring their design sensibilities to a broader audience and explore new avenues of creativity. By working with skilled craftsmen and manufacturers, architects can push the boundaries of materials and production techniques, resulting in innovative chair designs that showcase their architectural prowess.

Legacy and Design Icons

Throughout history, architects have designed chairs that have become iconic symbols of design. From the iconic Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to the Eames Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames, these chairs have left an indelible mark on both the worlds of architecture and furniture design. For architects, designing a chair represents an opportunity to contribute to this lineage of design icons, creating a lasting legacy that transcends individual buildings.

Architecture and chairs share a symbiotic relationship, where each informs and enriches the other. The exploration of chair design allows architects to delve into the finer details of form, function, materials, and user experience. It provides an avenue for experimentation, self-expression, and the manifestation of architectural philosophies. Chairs become an extension of the architect’s vision, contributing to the creation of complete environments that enhance the human experience.

So, the next time you sit in a well-designed chair, remember that it may have been born from the mind of an architect, a master of space and form, who sought to shape not just buildings but every aspect of the built environment. The humble chair becomes a testament to the passion, creativity, and attention to detail that architects bring to their craft, reminding us of the profound impact that design can have on our daily lives.

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Author: Laura Scalco