Why Do Architects Love Chairs?

Take a second to observe the objects around you. Each and every one of these items was created by a designer. A curiosity for man-made objects develops naturally during the course of one's architecture education. A form of design that has historically held the interest of architects is the profession of furniture design, and more specifically, that of chairs. Finite design parameters and design accessibility are the driving factors behind architects’ continued fascination in a field that is now an established companion of architecture.  

Countless noteworthy architects have dipped their toes into the realm of furniture design, many of them producing works that have outlasted their lifetime. The dynamic duo of Charles and Ray Eames created iconic designs that are still today, nearly 70 years later, sought after items of luxury. The Barcelona chair, created by architect Mies Van der Rohe in 1929, continues to be seen in almost any luxury hotel or office lobby. The relative scale of furniture design is why so many have sought to try their hand at this trade.

The compact design of furniture presents limitations and challenges very familiar to the critical mind of an architect. A truly functional piece is comfortable, recognizable and rests naturally in its intended environment. These succinct limitations pose the ideal challenge for any designer looking to push their creative bounds. The accessibility of this form of design, in both scale and parameters, lends itself to those new to the profession.

The relatives size of furniture design makes it an accessible project to those not yet producing full scale buildings. Furniture is similar to architecture in its methods of craft and the design challenges behind it. During my second year in school, we were asked to design a chair that was a tribute to someone who inspired us; I chose my father. I decided to construct a chair out of recycled bike parts since my father is both an avid cyclist and middle school science teacher. I visited three bike shops and was rewarded with four rims and an armful of tire tubing. All of these items scavenged, with permission, from the garbage cans of these shops. I spent the next three days cleaning grease from the rims and stripping apart the rubber tubing. The final result was a chair that could successfully hold our teacher, a six foot two - hundred and twenty pound man, without falling apart. In other words - a complete success.

The profession of furniture fabrication is a complex but accessible art. Project parameters and likeness to architectural design make this craft an outlet and recurring interest for many architects. Furniture encourages us to see the challenges behind the design of everyday objects and question how each decision led to the form we know today.