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Nine Chairs Designed to Save the World

In advance of the Copenhagen climate summit, dozens of young designers produce chairs meant to ease the negotiation process.

Komplot Design and Erik Jørgensen Møbelfabrik

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Next month, all eyes will turn towards Copenhagen for the U.N.’s 2009 Climate Change Conference–a meeting billed as a decisive point in the battle against carbon emissions. A slew of young designers wants to help, and they’ve produced 35 experimental chairs, pegged to the summit, around the theme of fostering “new forms of dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration.”

They’re on display now in Copenhagen, at the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition, an influential furniture show that pairs young designers with furniture manufacturers, and lets their imaginations loose. So what sort of ideas are at work? We’ve culled seven of the entries, and noticed three basic themes.

The first is a variation on the idea of just locking everyone in a room and not letting them out until they agree.

Above: Komplot Design and Erik Jørgensen Møbelfabrik chair, which pairs the sitters up for a tete-a-tete.

Below, Claus Bjerre and ParadiseParkDesignStudios produced these stools, which are lashed together:

Claus Bjerre and ParadiseParkDesignStudios

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Another similar one: Niels Gammelgaard and Onecollection’s chairs and cafe table–if you move, I move, and visa versa. Get it? Good! Now let’s all hold hands!

Niels Gammelgaard and Onecollection

Christina Liljenberg Halstrøm and Morten Lyhne’s pair of linked chairs, which also lets you feel your partner moving. At least the butt-warmth isn’t transferred as well:

Christina Liljenberg Halstrøm and Morten Lyhne

Another theme: If negotiators from the world’s 15 most powerful economies are going to act like children, then maybe they’ll behave if we actually infantilize them.

Peter Johansen & Ingeborg Stence Clausen worked with Malte Gormsen to create a set of loungers oriented around a sandbox–because these “adults” clearly need a refresher course on playing together:

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Peter Johansen and Ingeborg Stence Clausen, with Malte Gormsen

Troels Grum-Schwensen worked with Aksel Kjergaard to produce a table set that requires both participants to cooperate, if the table is to be functional:

Troels Grum-Schwensen and Aksel Kjergaard

Henrik Ingemann Nielsen and dePlace Møbelsnedkeri produced a chair for face-to-face negotations, with colorful little blocks that would could be shuffled back and forth, depending on negotiation terms:

Henrik Ingemann Nielsen and dePlace Møbelsnedkeri

The final theme we picked up on: We’re kind of screwed, so we should all be living just a little more mindfully.

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Søren Ulrik Petersen and Claus Mølgaard, with Amagerforbrænding, produced this brilliant recycled stool, with legs made of rolled up Ikea catalogues and plastic bottles. Cheap, green furniture at it’s very best, with the lightest footprint:

Søren Ulrik Petersen and Claus Mølgaard, with Amagerforbrænding

And finally, Torben Bay took that awareness idea to its logical conclusion: Get scared!

Here, he produced a chair that manages to look like a post-apocalyptic raft, floating on a sea that has risen up around us:

Torben Bay

For more designs, check out The Contemporist. For a run-down of some of the cleverest chairs produced in the 27 years since the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition began, check out Yatzer.

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And for the full list of all 35 designs, click here.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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