Fiberglass chairs have a long history. The Eames fiberglass chair of 1950 is probably the first. There have been many imitations of it. There have also been many other, original chair concepts executed in fiberglass.
Many fiberglass chairs, starting with the Eames chair, explore the idea of a seat created by deforming a flat sheet. A 2-dimensional surface (conceptually, at least) is made into a 3-dimensional one. It was an outgrowth of Eames’ wonderful molded plywood furniture, which literally began as flat sheets. When executed in FRP, it became an even more elegant concept, brimming with the malleability of the new material that could be formed to a depth and intricacy far beyond the limits of plywood.
Contemporary fiberglass chairs include a variety of deformed surfaces, some very arresting, some very clever. Austrian designer Philipp Aduatz, for example, takes the deformed surface right to the floor, forming the legs, seat and back from a single, deeply draped sheet.
Here, however, we present five fiberglass armchairs that have in common a significant departure from the 2D-to-3D concept. Instead, they each present the idea of a chair that has been pressed or dented out of a round or ovoid solid object.
The oldest design is Polish designer Roman Modzelewski’s 1958 chair, being reproduced since 2012 by the Polish company VZOR as the “RM58.” The Modzelewski chair sits on steel legs, but the overall shape suggests a blob that has been artfully dented to the ergonomics of the human posterior and its associated parts. Although the overall form, with its cut off bottom, is a bit ambiguous about whether the shape is a closed object or a deformed surface, the inward turn of the bottom edge suggests solidity.
Finnish designer Eero Arnaio has used composites extensively in his furniture. Three of his chairs explore the ‘deformed solid’ concept, and there is no ambiguity about whether they are closed shapes: they float in water.
The Formula chair is a scooped-out ovoid that vaguely suggests a race-car shrunk down into a single chair. The sharp seat-back, pinched up out of the blob, also recalls a race car. Arnaio dispenses with chair legs, letting the solid function as both seat and support. The resultant low seat-height puts the occupant in a sitting position similar to a race-car driver, too. It rocks slightly when you sit in it, and it includes an integral cup-holder.
His Pastille chair is an even simpler shape, a single scoop out of a jelly doughnut. In a sedate setting, it looks almost like a large stone in a Zen garden. However, photos of a fisherman floating in one, and kids riding them in the snow like snow-saucers, not only testify to is robustness, but suggest a much more playful aspect of the design.
Arnaio’s Tomato chair pushes the idea much farther. Here, the blob has apparently been squeezed down in the center until three lobes popped out around it. One is pinched up slightly to form the seat back. The other two become the armrests, as well as the front ‘legs’ of the chair.
Pince Moi, by Binome Design, is not an armchair, but more of an armless lounger, with a footrest to match. The irregular, somewhat chunky surface gives it the appearance of rough-hewn stone, as though it was carved from a larger, rounder boulder, but the name – Pinch Me – tells us that it is firmly in the realm of deformed blobs.
The conceit of making fiberglass – one of the thinnest and lightest materials being used in the furniture world – into a bulging, massive-looking solid, has a certain delight in it. Where a Deformed Surface chair shows off the thin, strong properties of the material, a Deformed Blob conceals its true nature. It engages us in a moment of fantasy about what shape the object ‘used to be’ and how it was formed into what it is now. The blobs bring to their functionality an added layer of playfulness. Fiberglass is surely a material the abets designers at play.