Collaborations | F4 chair with Stylex
Great projects begin with great collaborations. In 2014 we began a collaborative journey with Stylex, a New Jersey based seating manufacturer, with the goal of creating something new for us, new for them and new for the market. Now in 2017, the chair has launched and has been awarded a Gold award at Neocon in Chicago for conference seating. Our collaboration with Stylex has been a rewarding and successful one.
The length of time it’s taken to get this chair to market is significant, it can take a long time to get things right. As with many projects, there were twists and turns along the way coupled with a little down time — time to sit back and reflect on where we are, take stock and make a few tweaks to where we’re going. Not all projects can afford that, but when they can, great things can be achieved — more attention to detail in overall visual character and the relationship between all the elements can just get better.
This chair is intended for conference rooms and short term use. In contrast to many task-like chairs intended for long term use, this chair didn’t need a lot of adjustment or mechanism. This presented an opportunity to create a form that is simple, uncluttered and monolithic.
So before we got into design proposals, we began with a series of ideas and phrases that created a theme for the direction.
Forms that celebrate the requirements of structure
Forms that are unified to create seamless connections between parts
Forms that respect the nature of natural forces.
With this front of mind, the mechanical development needed to happen concurrently. As with any good project, these two activities informed each other and quality of the dialogue between these development activities is what ultimately led to our success.
My father has raced cars for as long as I can remember and I asked if he knew anything of a compact and low profile suspension. He took me into a garage and showed me a bare, rolling chassis of a corvette with no bodywork. It seems corvette have been using a low profile suspension system built around leaf springs since the 1960’s. This inspired a direction for a simple and reliable motion control mechanism that can be very compact.
It is assumed that chairs are to be comfortable, and this one needed to be really comfortable. But it also needed to capture a visual lightness and elegance. These can be at odds with each other and presented a challenge that ultimately led to the most prominent design gesture for the chair — an arcing, structural yoke that frames the seat, capturing the back, centring the whole structure on a height adjustment cylinder. This cast aluminum yoke accommodates the mechanism in its outer rails while leaving the centre of the seat clear, allowing for a deflection of the seat pan creating a really comfortable seat without significant thickness of foam. In contrast, most chairs need at least 2” of foam to achieve a comfy seat. The back upholstery evolved into a knit sock around a plastic frame that allows for a degree of flex and creates a profile to eliminate any edges that can be felt or seen through the knit.
There was a description at the early part of the process that suggested the chair should be distinctively characterized by a sketch of a single line. This became a driver through development. And in the production chair a line can be seen running from the edges of the arm, down the back and can be traced around the perimeter of the seat.
There were many drivers and goals in this project, as can be seen scattered through this story. The challenge for us was to gather them and unify them. The result is a chair that is seamless and classic in character. It’s composition allows for a wide range of finish and material options dramatically altering its visual ‘feel’ making it adaptable to a wide range of uses. All elements, visual, tactile and mechanical work together to create the experience of the chair and the process that got us here holds a lot for us to learn from. This has been a great collaboration.