30. 9 inches
17. 4 inches
21. 1 inches
22. 4 inches
WRIT TEN BY
A laser cuts sections out of the seat
back. The metal scraps are then used
to make the legs, which are spot-welded to the frame.
Stefan Diez borrows car-manufacturing technology
for the sheet-metal Chassis chair.
As any industrial designer will attest, drafting an idea is relatively easy. Getting it made is the hard part. Prototypes often
languish for years waiting for a manufacturer; and once one is
found, it can take equally long to work out the production kinks.
Just ask the German designer Stefan Diez, whose Chassis chair,
made with space-frame technology commonly used in building
car bodies, was unveiled to media swoons back in 2008 but
didn’t actually see the light of day until late last year. Although
Wilkhahn had committed to financing the project, finding a
properly equipped factory willing to fabricate the parts proved
a major setback. “If you come as a designer and want to make
a chair using this kind of technology, you don’t find an entrance
to the club—they have no interest in making chairs,” Diez says.
A company located near Wilkhahn’s headquarters in Bad
Münder, Germany, was ultimately enlisted to produce Chassis—
a lightweight (about 12 pounds), flexible chair with a delicate-looking frame of thin sheet metal and a removable polypropylene seat. Diez plans to expand the collection to include an
armrest and a cantilevered version and to upgrade the polypropylene to an experimental ecomaterial: a biodegradable mixture
of plastic and hemp. “We decided to use proven materials to
control the risk and use the other technology when it is ready,”
the designer says. And when will that be? “I’m sure it will take
some years,” he concedes. Here Diez talks about the technologically challenging Chassis, available, at long last, in white, gray,
The idea was to make a chair
with flexible characteristics, like
a bicycle. A rigid structure wouldn’t
resist the forces applied to it;
it would break. So the idea of
using flexible materials, like sheet
metal, for a chair is quite clever.
Sheet metal is just like a piece
of paper. You can crumple it. But
if you fold it properly, you can get
a lot of rigidity out of it. That’s
what car manufacturers do—they
fold the metal and mold it into
a three-dimensional volume.
The shape of Chassis follows the logic
of the manufacturing process—I am
convinced of the beauty of logic—but
we tried to find a balance between the
volume, which gives stability, and the
weight. The result is a liquid shape—
all the details flow into each other.
STEFAN DIEZ (b. 1971) began designing furniture as a cabinetmaker before enrolling at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, where he received a degree in industrial design in 1996. Since establishing his own studio in 2003, he has worked for such compa- nies as Authentics, Bree, Established & Sons, Moroso, Rosenthal, and Thonet, among others. He teaches at he Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design.
An advantage of the
sheet metal is that
you can apply many
kinds of coatings:
you can have it galvanized, chromed,
or whatever. This
version is only the
first step in an