Why Architects Can’t Resist a Good Seat: A Design Obsession Explained
Taste & Travel3 Minutes Read

Why Architects Can’t Resist a Good Seat: A Design Obsession Explained

June 10, 2024 Share

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In case you weren’t aware, architects are obsessed with chairs. Unlike their buildings, you can actually sit on these designs.

Let’s face it, architects have a reputation. They dream in blueprints, mutter about load-bearing walls in their sleep, and can identify a Doric column from a Corinthian across a crowded room (it’s all about the fluting, darling). But there’s one curious quirk that often goes unnoticed: their inexplicable obsession with a staple household item. The chair.

This love affair goes way back. You’ll find the likes of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, two iconic architects primarily active in the early 1900s, taking a break from designing iconic buildings to, well, design iconic chairs. Le Corbusier’s “Grand Confort” armchair looks like a modernist sculpture you can sink into, while Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair is basically a chrome bullfighter’s dream – sleek, minimalist, and guaranteed to make a statement.

Image courtesy of Classic Design

Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect who practically invented the term “living space,” couldn’t resist designing chairs that mirrored the clean lines and geometric forms of his iconic Prairie Style houses. Take the Robie Chair, for example. Crafted from dark wood with a strong horizontal emphasis, it’s like a miniature version of Wright’s famous cantilever designs – all sharp angles and defying gravity.

Image courtesy of Nest Model

Across the pond, we have the legendary Eames Lounge Chair. This husband-and-wife architect-designer duo, Charles and Ray Eames, brought a touch of West Coast comfort to the world with this molded plywood masterpiece. It’s a testament to their commitment to both form and function, offering a surprising level of cosiness in its modern embrace.

Image courtesy of Utility Design

For those who like a bit of whimsy with their seating, there’s Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Chair. This postmodern marvel, all squiggles and curves, looks like it melted straight out of Dr. Seuss’s imagination. It might not be the most practical chair on the block, but it’s a conversation starter for sure (and a potential back-breaker, so proceed with caution).

Image courtesy of Icon Magazine

We can’t forget the visionary chairs designed by non-European architects as well. Lina Bo Bardi’s Bowl Chair is a Brazilian masterpiece, a giant upholstered shell that invites you to curl up and contemplate the world (or maybe just take a nap). And then there’s Oscar Niemeyer’s Alta Armchair, a floating, sculptural form that seems to defy gravity with its single, sinuous leg.

So why the chair fetish? Here’s a theory: buildings are, by their very nature, a bit…distant. You can admire them, sure, but you can’t exactly curl up with a good book on a skyscraper ledge. Chairs, on the other hand, offer a more intimate connection. They’re an architect’s way of translating their grand design ideas into a human scale. Designing a chair forces an architect to consider all the elements they obsess over in their buildings: form, function, materials (hopefully something more comfortable than cold, hard marble). It’s a chance to experiment with balance, weight distribution, and that ever-elusive concept – comfort.

There’s also a touch of the underdog in this chair obsession. Buildings take years to complete, require mountains of paperwork, and can leave even the most seasoned architect battling with stubborn contractors and indecisive clients. A chair, on the other hand, is a more manageable project. It’s a chance to see their vision realised, from sketch to finished product, in a (relatively) short amount of time. 

So the next time you plop down on your favorite chair, take a moment to appreciate the architect who might have dreamt it up. They might be the mastermind behind a towering skyscraper, but they also understand the importance of a good seat. After all, even the grandest visions deserve a comfortable place to rest.

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