Stand Up For Chairs
Gauguin’s Chair, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
If you hang out with industrial designers, one thing you may have noticed is that they’re really into chairs.
In fact, tastes are predictable enough that you can often tell a designer’s favorite chair maker from his or her shirt. Black button-down? Mies van der Rohe. Black turtleneck? Peter Opsvik. Low-cut black V-neck and conspicuous hair product? Campanas. Every design school graduate wants a cool-looking chair in their portfolio, and chair design can be a savagely competitive field. If you can be bothered to read to the back of Wallpaper Magazine, I imagine you’ll find the page where they list all the job openings for the position of Famous Designer: “Need not apply unless strangely enthusiastic about crafting beautiful, terrible furniture for rich people.”
I hate to piss on the party, but chairs suck. All of them. No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Some are better than others, but all are bad. Not only are chairs a health hazard, they also have a problematic history that has inextricably tied them to our culture of status-obsessed individualism. Worse still, we’ve become dependent on them and it’s not clear that we’ll ever be free.
It sounds absurd to claim that chairs are dangerous. They’re comfortingly ubiquitous and seem almost too boring to be harmful. But when one considers that the average Briton, for instance, spends over fourteen hours seated per day, relying on chairs for support while working, relaxing, commuting, eating, and sometimes sleeping, it’s easy to believe that chairs could have a serious impact on public health.
If you want to sit healthily, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands; the best habit to develop is not to stay seated for more than ten minutes at a time.
If you read at an average speed, you should get up right now and walk around.