Chairs have a unique history as a testing-ground for architectural ideas. The scale of the chair, and the chair as an archetypal furniture object, are useful as an important starting point for exploring ideas of inhabitation, of material detailing, of paring away excess. All of the potential of architecture for profound expression through material is condensed here. The project also gives students the opportunity to interrogate the social nature of a chair, questioning what it means to sit, the physical configuration of a sitting posture, and the cooperation, even contortion, of the body that occupying a chair requires. The term-long assignment is to design, construct and explore the behaviour of a folding or take-apart wooden chair inspired by a client of the students’ choice.
The Chair Project course was developed with three primary learning objectives: First, to create opportunities for students to work hands-on with an easily-workable structural material -- this enhances their understanding of material properties, joinery, and real-life physical limitations. Second, to make structural analysis and calculation personally applicable and non-abstract -- the chairs created in ARCH 570 become the basis for a structural analysis component of the course; because the analysis is directly applied to an object of their own creation, students become much more engaged in the process. Third, to give students the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from taking a small project from conceptualization to physical realization -- because of the limited scale, students are able to test high-concept design and fabrication ideas.