The way we sit now is pretty grim: often eight, nine, 10 hours at a time without so much as lifting our fingers off a keyboard or our eyes off a screen. De Stijl icon Gerrit Rietveld had a different view on the act: “Sitting is a verb” was his common response to criticisms that his angular designs weren’t conducive to relaxation. Fellow Dutchies Jurgen Bey and Rianne Makkink (of their eponymous studio) set out to explore the middle ground of the two realities with Side Seat, a new design for Prooff that encourages movement with a bit of a twist.
The concept is an evolution on a chair the pair designed a few years ago for the cafe at the Netherlands’ Kunsthall KAdE museum; that model–which looks like a super cool Franken-hybrid of an Eames shell and old-timey school desk–swiveled to allow the user to face the small, individual table to eat, or away again to chat or take in the surroundings.
For this latest incarnation, they wanted to rework the structure to better suit what they call “semi-public work landscapes”–part of the ever-growing wave of open-plan offices that function primarily outside the confines of cubicles–as well as lobbies, libraries, and airports. “The testing started with a one-to-one cardboard model to understand the volumes and proportions of the object. In the next step, several prototypes were produced to balance out ergonomics,” they tell Co.Design.
And because these spaces see higher-impact hands- and butts-on contact, determining the ideal components for SideSeat proved more demanding than it had been for the earlier KAdE chair. “We had to find a good material that was easy to bend, durable for its function in the semi-public domain, and capable of being put into production but without losing its initial qualities.” In the end, they settled on a plywood frame, fittingly covered in the kind of linoleums and laminates generally found on desktops.
So what does Side Seat actually do? “The turning of the chair offers a twist in focus,” they say. Users can face forward, leaning or taking notes off to the side as one might during a lecture, or swing around to face the table full-on. In addition, the adjacent cabinet can be kept open for stacking papers and bric-a-brac, or filled with drawers for more discreet storage. Is a torso pivot going to solve all your posture problems? Not likely. But it’s encouraging to see designers considering how to shake up our sedentary ways.