Take A Seat

Eames Molded Plywood Chair

Wood is a material that has been used for thousands of years, providing everything from warmth to tools to furniture and to shelter. This being said, the behavior of wood and its performance abilities are well known; however, as designers it is in our nature to push a material’s potential to the max. In the case of changing the common wooden chair, no one embodies this development like design gurus Charles and Ray Eames.

Pure pieces of wood are not too incredibly flexible, depending on size and type. If you try to bend a piece of wood it will obviously crack at some point. How can you extend the breaking point while keeping the strength and durability of the material? Charles had a goal to make a chair out of a single piece of wood. Through many attempts and manipulations he found that with a single piece of wood this was not yet possible, but with a few curved pieces a uniquely designed chair could be built.

The material chosen by the Eames for this chair was plywood. Through years of trial and error, the Eames discovered that “super heating” the plywood would create “perfect and smooth curves.” This chair that the Eames designed has a curved back, mimicking the natural resting curve of the human back, and an undulated seat. The molded plywood chair has been come to be known as the Lounge Chair Wood and the Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

The Lounge Chair Wood does not show the natural flat form of plywood. Wood can be seen its usual shape in in the chairs of Frank Lloyd Wright designed dining room sets. Chairs are commonly built in a post and lintel fashion. This design of the typical chair is very flat. It does not accommodate the shape of the users body, creating an uncomfortable chair for the consumer.

Dining Room of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House

When it comes to goods, it is important that the consumers are offered multiple versions of a wooden chair to fit their desired need. It is up to them, however, to pick a chair that was built for comfort or one for purely aesthetic purposes.

“The Eames Lounge Chair’s Design Story.” The Eames Lounge Chair’s Design Story. N.p., 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.


One comment

  1. kieck033

    First off, I really appreciate the discussion on Charles and Ray Eames and their innovations of wood laminated chairs. The Eames couple was an extremely influential pair to the architecture and design world. This post brings me back to some of my previous classes, in which we watched videos on the production of a series of chairs designed by the Eames team, which were not wood, but fiberglass. Since seeing the “Fiberglass Chair” movie, I was not aware of any other furniture design and production of the Eames team. Wood is indeed an inflexible material, so I think the innovations that were made to produce the wood laminated chair by the Eames’ was incredible, especially during the time period that these innovations were made. I am now more inspired to look at more works by the Eames couple for inspiration.

    Along those same lines, I do have to agree with the comment made about the Eames’ pushing the limits of the common wooden chair by curving a single piece of wood. At the time this may have been a great innovation in furniture design. However, I feel like other precedents involving wood as a building material should be mentioned. Coincidentally, I came across the Finnish Pavilion, that was discussed in class earlier this morning, while searching for inspiration in my studio class. This is a topic that should be talked about in terms of pushing the limits with wood. The incredible detail put into this pavilion is just simply incredible. I understand it may be easier to accomplish in more advanced times, but this structure is simply amazing. I am stunned as to how it was constructed to get that evenly distributed curve in the ceiling. The way in which the building uses wood to mimic waves or that of a ship is shocking. It appears that the wood was sculpted from the waves in the harbor that the structure sits on. Therefore, although the Eames chair and ottoman were great for pushing chair designs, I think the Finnish Pavilion deserves the honor for “the pushing the limits in wood” discussion.

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