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Students redefine one of life's most common objects

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Furniture and Product Design students redefine the chair

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Students from Bath Spa University’s Furniture and Product Design course have partnered with leading design agency, Committee and furniture experts, Herman Miller to redefine one of life’s most common objects – the chair.

The project saw first, second and third year students study the detail and quality of the assembled chairs, which were donated by Herman Miller, before dismantling them and re-creating them, some as completely new concepts.

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One concept which stayed true to the idea of a traditional chair was the human-powered, Palanquin chair, created by Joseph Constable first year, Eleanor O’Shea third year, Efthymia Stavrides first year and Darcy Tudge second year.

Commenting on their creation, Eleanor O’Shea said: “The concept of our design was to re-imagine historical hierarchy with a traditional ‘mode of transport’. By analysing the chair disassembled, we saw the anthropomorphic and almost skeletal nature it had and tested how these pieces could be used against the body; particularly the shoulders and back.”

“Inspired by ‘palanquins’, we found that the chair challenged the personal boundaries between people. It gave the person seated a sense of superiority, while the ‘carrier’ had a much more challenging, perhaps degrading experience.”

Other students moved away from the chair’s original form and created an entirely new purpose for it.

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Samantha Hollingham (second year), who created the Sound Machine with Max Farnell (first year), James Hammond (second year), Oliver Langford (first year) and Adam Meyrick (first year), commented: “Our concept was to create a group sensory experience to allow the participants to take a break from the stresses of everyday life. The idea is to surround yourself by the object and hit the metal arms, which creates a calming yet oddly monumental sound which reminded us of a church bell; signifying a different time period, perhaps that today's society has forgotten.”

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Finally, student Calum Stewart took the chair completely out of its original context and created The Spine.

He said: “The material that intrigued me the most within this project was the cast aluminium ‘foot’ of the chair, in particular the cross-sectional shape of the legs. In order to maximise this, I sliced the legs into smaller pieces to give more access to this form. This lent itself to creating a piece which focused on pattern, and also spoke to me of the incidental beauty of the human spine. The form is an expression that seeks to align the symmetry of the human body, the chair itself and the life of the chair after it’s been thrown away.”

Julia Keyte, course leader for Furniture and Product Design at Bath Spa University, added: “The Furniture and Product Design course is distinctive in offering students personal vision for design so it was very exciting to see how they interpreted the forms of the chair components. The original chairs donated by Herman Miller are very considered and expertly designed using ergonomic principles. We are very grateful to them and Harry Richardson from Committee who encouraged the students to discover a new conceptual space for redesign, the results of which are both rich and diverse.”

The BA (Hons) Furniture and Product Design course at Bath Spa University is an exciting course for individuals motivated by making. Students will develop individual design vision through purposeful briefs, materials and scales, taught by industry professionals.

Previous students from the course have gone on to have exciting careers in national and global design and manufacturing companies, contemporary designers and design marketing agencies. Others will move into self-employment or put their own designs into production, and platform their work internationally. Graduate paths will also include postgraduate study, teaching, specialist computer aided design, curation and design research.


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Julia Keyte

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