Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Derrières on the Frontline

In an age where design meets needs we didn't even know we had, how is it possible that we are still living with fashion that does not function?  When the iPod revolution has made our listening and viewing experiences elegant, ubiquitous, and affordable in the same stroke, why must we still suffer from poor devices for sitting?

A few months ago I went to a job interview, as I had been beating the streets trying to find my place here in NYC.  I had landed an interview with a graphic design firm whose work was extremely profound, and whose website had all kinds of personality.  Naturally, I expected the same from the environment of their office, but I was in for a surprise.  Their building was on Broadway in SoHo and the hallways were honey-colored warm, wood-floored, and reminiscent of historical school buildings, but what lay behind the boardroom door was a monster disguised as high design.  Just as future employers judge their prospective employees by their attire or shoes, this experience launched my need to analyze my prospective supervisors and officemates by their choice of workplace furniture.

I entered the office: a nearly-empty, not-even-a-receptionist, pseudo-foyer with an extraordinarily-low black foam couch.  I was asked to wait for a few minutes and then was led into the boardroom with its ever-so graceful Saarinen dining/conference table, peachy walls, swiveling yellow-fin dividing wall, and what are these?  Philippe Starck Ghost "La Marie" chairs.  Hmmm.  How could one balance on this crystal polycarbonate?  Luckily no one was there to witness my game of musical chairs, as I was still waiting for the interviewers to arrive.  I wondered, "Is this a test?"  I chose the lone Ghost "Louis" chair with a seat more than 19 inches wide, but I was already done with this interview.  I think it lasted 10 minutes.  Perhaps my interviewers didn't want to sit there either.

Is there a moral message being promoted by such seating?  Has the role of the humble worshipper on an unpadded bench become the model for chair design and technology?  If this is the case, it is time for Vatican III.  I am finished with the hand-carving, flying buttresses, and cantilevers that cannot deliver good circulation or support.  And no one should feel guilty for this.

On the other cheek, I know that I can spend a cool G per Aeron chair for my office or conference room, but will that meet my needs at the dinner table or in my boudoir?  I'm afraid I do not want to see the super-sporty-tennis-racket chair in such places, much like I don't want to wear my trainers and white socks with my suit skirt, even if they are more comfortable.

Somewhere in a mass of breathable webbing, dovetailed wood, powder-coated steel, titanium hardware, and invisible casters lies the perfect chair.  Since our tools build us as much as we build them, is it possible to develop such a seat without sitting on one to first ponder the idea?

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