Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cantilevered chairs

click photos to enlarge
It took a bold leap of the imagination to come up with the cantilevered chair. It is, as we say today, counter-intuitive; a shape that looks like it shouldn't work, or should work for only a short time before collapsing under the weight of its user. But, in 1924 the Dutch architect, planner and designer, Mart Stam (1899-1986), saw past these problems of the mind and produced the first example. Between 1926 and 1929, he created his S33 and S34 designs which found a ready market among those who wanted furnishings that reflected the modern spirit. Stam's designs were immediately followed by an example from Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), the Hungarian-American architect and designer, that combined the tubular steel frame with a more traditional seat and back made of wood and woven cane. This led to an action in the German courts with both men claiming to be the inventor of the canilever chair. The outcome of the case favoured Stam, but has left confusion in the minds of many about who originated this design classic.

Other designers, including Mies van der Rohe, Gerrit Rietveld, Vernor Panton, Stefan Wewerka, and Frank Gehry, have subsequently taken the cantilever principle and given it their own twist. The most recent take on this, by now, established form for a chair, is by the German designer, Konstantin Grcic (1965- ). His MYTO chair is made by an Italian company from advanced BASF plastic that allows the strength and flexibility necessary in the cantilever design. It uses the minimum quantity required for the purpose, is recyclable, comes in several colours, and can be stacked up to eight chairs high. An example has been selected for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

I came across a single, black example of Grcic's chair at a design exhibition. Placed on a white podium on a dark floor, with a white screen behind, the chair suggested a photograph, so I looked for a single image that displayed the chair to best effect and made an interesting composition within the camera's rectangular frame. I failed! However, I did, I think, achieve my goal with two images. The shot in landscape format makes best use of the chair and background together but fails because it doesn't show the far "leg" of the chair, whilst the portrait format image presents the chair to good effect against a less interesting background. Incidentally, both shots are in colour!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 2 (Photo 1)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 8mm (37mm/35mm equiv.):(5mm (24mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f2.4 (f2)
Shutter Speed: 1/50 (30)
ISO: 400 (200)
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On