Architects don't just design buildings. Fundamentally, an architect is a designer. Not only that, but an architect is a designer who has been trained to look at the human scale, and proportion. Some decide to take this further than just buildings and start designing other objects. A particular favourite is to join in with the quest to design the perfect chair.
"Architects don't just design buildings."
Heatherwick and his studio have designed multiple chairs, but one in particular stands out for me.
'Spun' is perhaps one of the best ergonomic experimentations that I have ever come across. The studio was concerned with finding a solution to making a chair in which the bit that you sit on, can also be the bit which you lean on. This was a part of their brief for making an ergonomic chair. The original is made from spun metal, although they can be found in rotation moulded plastic too. The design of the chair is similar to that of a spinning top, and also has a similar secondary function too.
In the BBC Culture Show, 'The Unstoppable Thomas Heatherwick', the 'Spun' chair is shown and briefly explained. The video can be found to the right and I fully encourage you to watch it.
Because of the nature of the chair, it can be sat on from any angle, no matter how much it is rotated. Furthermore, it has an element of not only comfort, but genuine fun. It allows the user to spin around and sit at unusual angles, without ever falling off it. The design is so sound that it simply does not fall over. Yet more than this is the fact that it remains ergonomic and comfortable.
It is not often that a chair can be described as 'fun', as well as functional.
'Spun' can be seen at 06:28, along with Thomas Heathwick's explanation of it's inception.
Zaha Hadid is a very contemporary architect and designer whose ideas tend to split opinions. Her architectural work is very futuristic, almost alien in it's aesthetics. Her designs for furniture do not differ from this approach.
The image to the right shows the 'Scoop Sofa'. It follows the idea of fluidity in design, which Hadid's studio has become so famous for. I like Zaha Hadid's designs in architecture, at least some of the time. When the surrounding context of her work is appropriate for the design, the architecture can look beautiful. However there are definite times in which her design approach can be considered as inappropriate for the setting.
From the image it can be seen that seat must not be especially comfortable. In the human scale and proportion, the back of the seat is too far back to be leant upon comfortably and the shiny metal surface suggests a lack of friction with which to hold a person under the attempt of leaning back. Furthermore, this design is stated as a sofa, implying it is designed "for two or more people." [Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd
"[...] function has been forced to follow form."
Functional issues aside, it is fair to say that this piece of furniture does possess a certain aesthetic quality to it. Whereas I personally would prefer to have Thomas Heatherwick's 'Spun' chair, I can see why the 'Scoop Sofa' may appeal to some. Unfortunately, as with Hadid's buildings, this design is not going to be appropriately for most surrounding contexts, I can't imagine it in a home for example. Interestingly, I think that this chair finds it's own home amongst the equally fluid designs of Hadid's architecture.
Heatherwick, T. (14th October 2013). Thomas Heatherwick: Making. Thames and Hudson Ltd.
http://www.heatherwick.com/magis-spun-chair/ - 26/10/2013
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCP97dZ55dw - 26/10/2013
http://www.zaha-hadid.com/design/scoop-sofa/ - 26/10/2013
Oxford Dictionaries. (19th August 2010). Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press.