Grab a seat

Out of all the pieces of furniture, office chairs are probably the least sexy. Functional, often plastic creatures, the only redeeming thing about these praying mantis-type objects, is that they can be used as alternatives to go-carts on particularly dull days.

Lotus, Jasper Morrison, Cappellini, Italy, 2006

Source: Studio One

Lotus, Jasper Morrison, Cappellini, Italy, 2006

But new book A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, by Jonathan Olivares, aims to fight the corner of this overlooked piece of furniture, by showing us some gorgeous examples selected by designers, curators and historians.

Olivares says, ‘Far from being just an inanimate object, the office chair’s rich history reflects our own; from work habits, to consumer care, to an era’s style and fashion.’

Larkin Building Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright, Von Dorn Iron Works Company, USA, 1904

Source: Vitra Design Museum

Larkin Building Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright, Von Dorn Iron Works Company, USA, 1904

He adds, ‘It could have been the taxonomy of toasters or automotive engines, but to me office chairs seemed a far more intriguing subject; with their close relationship to the human body, and their extraordinary mechanical complexity.’

71 Saarinen Armchair, Eero Saarinen, Knoll, USA, 1951

Source: Knoll

71 Saarinen Armchair, Eero Saarinen, Knoll, USA, 1951

Much like a butterfly taxonomy, the book shows the evolution of different ‘species’ of chairs and investigates the way each chair’s headrest, armrest and lumbar are organised to best support the body. Sadly the book doesn’t go into their racing ergonmics, but we’re guessing the space-age sleekness of Jasper Morrison’s Lotus chair is going to make it a pretty good contender.

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares is published by Phaidon Press in May, priced at £24.95.

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