foamy wood no.3
Royal College of Art
foamy wood no.3
The two materials used in this design are meant to give you a contradictory sensation when you sit on it.
foamy wood no.3
Foamy wood series explore the possibilities of using negative space of a chair to provide comfort and trigger surprises. By tangifying the negative space using a soft material—foam, the legs land, the backrest and seating area bend to embrace when sat upon. The contact surfaces are made out of Birch-ply, and the legs are made out of Maple, both of which become more supportive and generous when meeting with foam. The combination and contrast of soft and hard create a unexpectedly comfortable seating experience and challenges common perception of material usage.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
This project was set off to design a new seating experience through innovative material and manufacturing process experimentation. The brief was deliberately open and gave designer a known: chair and an unknown: which is also…
My task was to interpret the brief in a fresh innovative way. How to get to the proposal should be equally important as what it is. I was expected to make and get a feel for full size making, materials, proportions and structures while learning to iterate through making full-size structures as part of my concept and development process rather than trying to pre-calculate.
The world is full of chairs and yet every now and then we continue to see some chairs do something more and tell some new stories. It’s this close relationship to our changing lives that continues to drive the possibilities for new innovations in how we sit.
I believe the rationale of creating a chair, or simply creating anything nowadays, should be more then just an aesthetic refreshment or a functional adaptation. A new chair specifically should address that relationship between the seat and the sitter, through narrating the story of the materials, the technologies and the art. The novelty comes through the deep and thorough understanding of materials and processes. A chair can only do so much as a seating piece. It is the surprises and emotional responses it triggers that make it long-lasting.
This project took place when I started getting exposed to contemporary art and engineering in my design study. I was inspired by Rachel Whitereads
‘untitiled’ series of casted negative spaces of ordinary domestic objects. She produced a solid cast of where the space within a container would be; particular parts of rooms, the area underneath furniture, for example. The subtle reminder of the space that is often neglected feels novel, and yet familiar.
I started looking into the possibilities to tangify the negative space to provide extra value. The stereotypical understanding is that supporting materials should be tough, rigid and stable, and contact surface materials should be soft, embracing and elastic. However, by completely rethinking that relationship, and using a soft material – foam as the negative support and a hard material – wood as the frame, I was able to achieve an unexpectedly comfortable seating experience. Specifically, when sat upon, the wooden legs 'lands', the birch backrest and seating surface bend. The concept maximizes the generosity of foam and minimizes the usage of wood.
I dived into a one-to-one prototype at an early stage and made ‘foamy wood no. 1’, which proved crucial principles of the chair. After I had a comprehensive understanding on how to program the foam layer underneath the chair to control the weight distribution, I was able to make the foamy wood no.2 and no.3 that perform very well with different weight classes.
A great chair has to do something extra. It’s not just about the art, engineering, ergonomics and function but about the innovative possibilities offered when designing one of the most competitive and high profile products.
Foamy wood series is about re-thinking and re-interpreting materials and relationships. It demonstrates that a comfortable chair does not have to be made out expensive wood. Comfort can come from smart usage of the most ordinary materials.
This chair addresses the relationship between the seat and the sitter through narrating the story of tangifying the negative space of a chair to provide comfort. The unexpected seating experience comes through the understanding of a novel combination of materials. It minimizes the usually heavy and expensive material and triggers fresh surprises every time it is used.