Five Days of Frame #116: Konstantin Grcic talks chairs

PEOPLE – For our 20th anniversary issue, which is out now, we collated a list of 20 people, studios, and brands that are reinventing their fields. Amongst them Konstantic Grcic, who keeps reimagining the chair (pictured above: the Primo chair for Mattiazzi, released this year). In this web exclusive interview, he explains why and how.

Why do you keep on reinventing the chair?
KONSTANTIN GRCIC: Quite simply, I love chairs – and the chair lends itself to being redesigned over and over again.

How’s that?
How we sit, where we sit, for how long: all these factors change with the way we live, work and relax. The design history of chairs reveals a lot about social shifts. That’s why I think there’s always another chair to be designed, because there’s always a cultural or technological advancement to address.

What have you learned from designing chairs for so long?
It’s so much more than just reorganizing a seat, backrest and four legs. We don’t come into contact with any other piece of furniture the same way: when you sit on it, it becomes part of you. That’s why when people like a chair, they think it’s beautiful and feel as good sitting in it as they do when they’re well-dressed. But when they don’t like a chair, they feel uncomfortable in it.

Presented at the Salone del Mobile in Milan were new versions of Grcic’s Monza series for Plank, including an outdoor model and a bistro option (pictured here). Photo Miro Zagnoli, courtesy of Plank Srl

Is comfort the most important thing for you in a chair?
Yes, but not just in terms of a chair being soft or relaxing, but what’s appropriate to a specific situation. For example, if I’m at work sitting on the front edge of a chair can be more comfortable than leaning back into the same chair that has a very well-designed and comfortable backrest. That’s why I’m fascinated by the psychology of chairs.

The design history of chairs reveals a lot about social shifts

What do you mean?
Everyone has sat on so many chairs that when you see one, you can read it and judge whether it’s comfortable before you even sit down on it. I want to understand that psychology to meet people’s expectations, because a chair that looks comfortable but feels rock hard is terribly disappointing.

Is there such a thing as a perfect chair?
No, because a chair can be perfect only for one person in a specific need or situation. A chair that is far less defined is then a better chair for more people with more postures in a greater range of situations.

Did you ever get close?
Perhaps with the Pro School Chair. It was a great project because it was so specific. We knew everything about the situation: what and where the chair was for, as well as how long people would sit in it. Therefore we could go quite far towards answering those needs, but that doesn’t make it perfect (yet).

Even though Grcic thinks there is no such thing as a perfect chair, he believes the closest he ever got was Pro for Flötotto, a school chair with an S-shaped shell designed to support active sitting. Photo Jens Bösenberg

Everyone has sat on so many chairs that when you see one, you can read it and judge whether it’s comfortable before you even sit down on it

What about perhaps your most famous design, Chair One?
When I originally designed it, I was convinced that it was for the outdoors. As you probably sit for shorter periods on an outdoors chair, ergonomic comfort is less relevant than the fact that there’s no rainwater left on the seat, for example. These considerations were very specific to my idea of where this chair would go. However, people saw something different in the chair, and most of these chairs end up indoors. I’m flattered to hear that it’s in Frame’s conference room, but I would never have designed a chair for that location in that way!

Konstantin Grcic poses with what is perhaps his most famous chair: the Chair One for Magis. Photo Marcus Jans

Primo Chair title image photographed by Gerhardt Kellerman

Read about the other 19 creatives whose work is defining our tomorrow in Frame #116, available now.

Billboard: Summer Sale 18
Billboard: Summer Sale 18

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Frame 116

Frame 116

The May/June issue of Frame is a special one, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. We present 20 designers and brands – from household names to emerging talents – that we expect to lead the way in spatial design in years to come. We showcase 20 interior projects that represent 20 strategies for designing spaces, and go beyond the conventional scope of design to find 20 visions that frame the future.

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