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2014 Herman Miller Design Challenge

09.12.14 / Tyler Baum

This April, ARC was invited to participate in the 2014 Herman Miller design challenge.  Architecture and design firms across New England were asked to find artistic inspiration in the Eames work and use their Eames Molded Plastic Chair as the canvas.

In June, each team was provided with a white plastic chair, which began to spark the creativity among the ARC team! Guided by a few rules and requirements, ARC began to brainstorm innovative and interesting ideas for the chair. Many fun and unique ideas were generated. At first, inspiration ranged from the race cars of the 1960s, and the famous paintings of Sault Steinberg, to the retro lite bright game. The question of what to do with this chair became puzzling.

As a way to organize and consolidate our ideas, the design team developed some guidelines. We wanted our design to reflect the values of Ray and Charles Eames. We wanted to create a simple, universal and playful chair that anyone could comfortably use.

The design finally evolved into using layers of felt to transform the plastic shell into a more ergonomic design. We took a durable, monolithic material, FilzFelt, and hand-formed it to the shape of the chair. The dense, high quality wool proved to be functional, natural and beautiful.  The topographic use of materials is a methodology familiar to us as architects.  We took this approach and scaled it down to the chair and the human body. The pop of orange is part of the artistic vision:  simple and beautiful. We were inspired by the playfulness evident in the Eames’ story and in their designs. We hope our design evokes a sense of fun.

The design competition was an enjoyable and creative outlet for the office and provided a break from our daily routines. Even though the competition varied from our traditional projects it was a strong team building exercise. It allowed us to collaborate and solve problems collectively.

In July the ARC team presented the chair at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The event was packed with energy, refreshments and designers. The most exciting part of the event was being able to see the variety of creative approaches each team took toward their chair. This provided all of the participants with lots of artistic inspiration for the future.

While having the opportunity to spend an evening at such an incredible event was undoubtedly exciting, our proudest moment from this experience was being able to come together and create something as a team. Seeing my cohorts working extra hours and spending their free time gluing together orange felt, truly exemplifies the hardworking and close knit environment at ARC and our dedication to design.

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