Before And After: 10 Prototype Chair Designs That Made It ...Or Didn't

Even at Milan Design Week '09, there's a place for baring all. Here are 10 chairs that confess their beginnings, present in prototype form, ready to say 100 Hail Mary's or be rewarded with immediate absolution. Prophets and Penitents, aka Confessions of a Chair, is an open exhibit of chair prototypes from designers we know and love.

Where do chairs go to confess in Milan?  The Oratorio della Passione, a 15th Century hall, at Milan's landmark Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.

Some of the prototypes have been manufactured, some are about to go into production, and others conveniently became "one-off' designs.  The prototypes either look as if they're right off the showroom floor, or they look like they came to the exhibit kicking and screaming, "No, don't let anyone see me. You'll ruin your reputation!

Ah, but it's all very interesting.  Here are 10 of the special Prophets and Penitents... we'll see what became of them.


1. The Woolly Chair Prototype by Jason Miller

I would just bet that when the organizers of the Prophets and Penitents exhibit first conceived of this exhibit they had the Woolly Chair in mind, because if I ever saw a chair that needs to confess, it's this one!  Oh, there's a metal base and a chair structure made of industrial wool felt, the cover is a bison hide.  As Jason Miler agrees, 'It's a decadent chair." Jason Miller




2. Vegetal Chair Prototype by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec (FR), manufactured by Vitra.

The Vegetal Chair is a wonderfully lightweight plastic molded chair inspired by falling leaves.  It is on the market in several countries.   Here is the lovely finished product.

The Product:



You can imagine how the Bouroullec brothers felt when the first machined prototypes of Vegetal Chair were presented to them.... 

The Prototype:




3. Mille Pieds Prototype by 5.5 Designers (FR)

The famous five had an idea to collect parts of abandoned furniture to give people a chance to find the parts they need to fix their own chairs or wooden crutches, splints, or seats.  The assembled pieces represent six different chairs within a green frame.  This prototype became a "one-off."  That's probably as it should be. You are five good sports, folks!  (5.5 Designers)




4.  360° Chair Prototype by Konstantin Grcic (DE), manufactured by Magis

The production copy of the 360° Chair is previewing in Milan as I write. The industrial design is a steel-framed, height-adjustable chair.  It's footrest is imprinted with compass markings every 10 degrees. That's good information to have when you are swiveling. (Konstantin Grcic)

The Product:





And here is the designer of the 360° Chair, Konstantin Grcic, on the cover of DAMn° Magazine's March 2009 issue with his prototype of the 360°!  Yes, this is the first prototype, in wood, built in June, 2008.

The Prototype:





5.  PACK Prototype by François Azambourg (FR)

This is such an interesting chair, button activated, easily deflated, and you can take it anywhere.  Yet, after five prototypes, this one completed by Azambourg in 1999, no manufacturer has picked this up. 



 Check out these directions... aren't they sweet?

1- Turn Right activating button several times.
2- Shake the chair for 20 seconds.
3- Slowly turn the chair twice.
4- Hold the chair until inflating begins (about one minute).
6- After inflation, let rest for 10 minutes before use.


6.  PRETTYPRETTY Rosina Prototype by Dejana Kabiljo(AT)

Maybe?  This prototype was just designed this year, so maybe we'll see more of it.  Looks quite professionally put together and she sure is pretty.  Rosina's smashing as a decorative chair, but she's horsehair... also medium density fiberboard (MDF) and steel. Dejana Kabiljo




7. Identity Disorder Prototype by Arik Levy (IL)

Here's a funny one, that Levy is calling a 'one-off.;  Maybe it just needs more work?  Read about where Levy is coming from though...

"A chair that becomes a lamp that becomes a chair that becomes a lamp… once the
chair is connected and lit, is it more of a chair or more of a lamp? And when suspended
what is it then?  Social stereotypes are similar to product typologies: I feel that the gap between them is the place where the real issues are raised. Pretty or not."

It takes a brave (and secure) designer to share this with the public.  Arik Levy




8.  ARCHIDUCHAISE Prototype, by Xavier Lust (BE), manufactured by Xavier Lust Studio

This exquisite aluminum chair is a really unfair entry into the Confessions of a Chair exhibit.  The prototype was manufactured and it looks, as least from here, exactly like the gorgeous limited edition pieces that are for sale! (Xavier Lust)

See if you can tell the difference...





9.  MUNARIA Prototype by Bruno Munari (IT)

Here's another one I'd love to see produced. Munari's Munaria was prototyped in 1988 and it is the only prototype.  Are the feet Munari's own? "The bent tubular frame is in polished brass, and the feet, or better still, the paws, are in polished walnut with gilded nails."  Munaria and its drawings are on display at Prophets and Penitents.  I wonder if he would approve of his chair making confessions... Bruno Munari passed away in 1998 at age 90.






10. Chair Overdose Prototype by Bram Boo (BE)

Designer Bram Boo created this chair fit for a saint by using his "overdose" of boxes to create a chair with a halo for everyone who sits in it.  Yes, even the world's top designers can be silly.  But you never know, you may find the Chair Overdose in your next issue of DAMn° Magazine, produced by one of the top design manufacturers. 



Photo: Core 77 Brit LeisslerPhoto: Core 77 Brit Leissler


DAMn° Magazine, Galleria Blanchaert, and MooD Designs are sponsoring the Prophets and Penitents prototype exhibit.