Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chairs are hard

click photo to enlarge
"A chair is a very difficult object. A sky scraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous." Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German-American architect (1886-1969)

In February 2006 I used the quote above to preface a shot that I consider to be one of my better efforts. It shows a detail of a stack of shiny cafe chairs. In that post and elsewhere I've made the point that chairs can be beautiful, chairs can be comfortable, and chairs can be both beautiful and comfortable - but they rarely are. When the fusion of aesthetics and utility is achieved it is often justly celebrated and the designer becomes, if not a household name, then someone who is known to those who appreciate good design. So, the chairs of Michelle Thonet, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, Mies van der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen, Robin Day, Konstantin Grcic and the like are found not only in the homes of such people, but in the world's museums and galleries.

My mind returned to this subject the other day when I saw this set of two chairs and a table. They are made for outdoor use and fulfil the requirement to stand up to the weather reasonably well - the hard ceramic/plastic surfaces will last a long time, and so will the metal, though it has rusted. And, aesthetically, I suppose they look fine in a cottagey sort of way. The co-ordinated pots are an unusual touch. But when it comes to sitting on them, drinking a cup of coffee, surveying the garden and chewing the fat - or even the cud - with a partner or friend, then the chairs look to have very obvious limitations. In fact, they look as though they would be torture for the posterior: cold in anything but the mildest weather, wet for a long time after rain, and hard, hard hard whenever you chose to sit on them! However, as objects to add detail, a certain character, and a suggestion of alfresco living they are fine. And as a composition for a passing photographer they looked fine too. 

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 119mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On