Student-Designed Chairs 'Celebrate the Human Body'

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: May 30, 2003 This content is archived.


Related Multimedia

Students in UB's School of Architecture and Planning learned in a senior studio this spring that sometimes a chair is more than a place to rest a weary body.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The chair.

Many view this humble device simply as a means -- sometimes comfortable, sometimes not -- to "take a load off."

But for architecture students who completed the seating design assignment in Abir Mullick's "Senior Studio" (ARC 404/504) this spring in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, the chair became something more. According the course description, it was "a complex, everyday object" requiring "critical attention to function, structure, material and economics."

The purpose of the seating design assignment, says Mullick, associate professor of architecture, was to examine the idea of seating from a wide range of social, technological and utilitarian perspectives, and to study seating design from the perspective of how it "celebrates the human body."

Students were asked to study the chair as an object influenced by technique, style and status, he says, and think creatively about its design, construction and usability in order to understand the "near environment" that touches the body.

Mullick points out that because present ideas about seating evolved in the past, understanding today's seating designs requires appreciation of cultural history -- both old and new. And when comparing chairs among various cultures, he says, it becomes evident to students that they "are truly cultural artifacts, not simply extensions of our bodies."

The chief objective of the course, according to the syllabus, was for students to design and build a seat that "highlights ergonomic interest and creative design."

The seats had to show a "creative solution" to sitting; be able to be used by a range of persons; be easy to get in and out of, and help the "sitter" maintain comfortable posture; demonstrate efficient use of material, construction and technology, and be constructed at full-scale.

Among the chairs that were designed and built for the course:

o "Drafting Chair" by Keegan Roberts of Cold Brook. Roberts' drafting chair offers chest support not found in other drafting chairs, Mullick says. "Since people need to lean forward when drafting, a chest support helps to maintain stable posture and it offers good body support. The seat position and chest support are adjustable and they can be adjusted many body sizes."

o "Aluminum Pop" by Jose Chang of Brooklyn. "Jose's chair studied cantilever design for support and stability," Mullick explains. "The chair, which is constructed out of aluminum sheet and supported on a central metal bracket, is unusually strong. It is comfortable to sit and allows body movement. Jose has installed rubber cups on the seat and back surfaces to prevent the body from coming in contact with the metal surface."

o "Minimal Metal" by Casey Milbrand of Kenmore. "Casey studied the need for body support and he designed a chair to provide minimal support," Mullick says. "Four pieces of seat structure and two pieces of back structure are supported independently of the other. This helps body movement and allows maintaining posture, independent of individual structure."