Architects have long considered the chair to be one of the greatest design challenges. It is a challenge I have always wanted to address.
Five years ago I discovered a rusted steel bar lying buried in a field. It had been twisted and bent into a fluid shape. I brought it into my studio and began manipulating small diameter steel rods into playful shapes inspired by this found object. After much experimentation one shape emerged which seemed to hold the potential of becoming the frame of a chair. It was a chance discovery. But soon I realized I was looking to find a way to make a chair which could bring all the necessary components into a relationship which was as simple as a gesture in space. Just doing a chair was not my objective. It had to represent something fundamentally conceptual. In a way I was looking for almost a Platonic idealization of “chairness”. If successful, the conceptual idea could produce many types of chairs not just one. Loop de Loop represents this “gesture in space”. Coincidentally, the name Loop de Loop also comes from an aerial maneuver used by stunt aviators employing the same geometric principle.
This fortuitous beginning, which I had stumbled upon, opened the door for me to join the architects Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Paulo Mendes da Rocha in the development begun by Stam, of the single line tubular chair. I hoped to make a step forward, one which created a closer integration of the primary components of this chair type: seat, back and frame.
Why does this design advance the previous single line tubular types? It is the first time that frame and seat are placed in an interdependent relationship. The geometry of the seat and back are dependent on the geometry of the frame. They do not simply rest on the frame but are interactive with it. No secondary lateral struts are introduced and arms are naturally created as a product of the initial geometry, rather than as secondary components. This single geometric principle makes possible several chair type variations. Presently, a large and small lounge are joined by an ottoman, a dining chair and a chaise lounge. A future rocking type is anticipated.
My visual preference lies with forms which express energy and movement. An example is Brancusi's Bird in Space. So too is a Kyudo archer about to release an arrow. With these chairs I sought to create a synthesis of my visual sensibilities. They embody the playfulness of a dancer leaping into space or a runner poised at the starting block straining to explode into motion.
My chairs are formed by taking a single loop of 5/8" high strength tubular steel and passing one end of the loop through the other. This was the beginning of the idea. I spent five years adjusting the passage of the loop so that its dimensions and form yielded a chair of elegance and comfort. CNC lateral benders make possible the complex geometry of the frame. The completion of the passing of one loop end through the other creates an object with three points of support. A fourth point is generated by lifting the center of the lower loop creating two supporting points out of one.
The seat and back of the chair is made of a non-elastic knit polyester fabric, which stretches through geometric deformation. The fabric has a limit to its deformation enabling individuals of different weight to arrive at approximately the same seating height. A double fabric layer creates a type of sleeve for both the seat and back of the chair. Each of these sleeves is stretched over the frame of the chair. One of the unique characteristics of the double layer sleeve is the ethereal moiré pattern created by light passing through the two layers. It gives to each chair an illusion of weightlessness which belies the efficiency of their structural integrity.
Structural equilibrium is achieved by balancing the forces of compression and tension. The frame is always in compression; it is a type of spring. The fabric is always in tension; it is a type of net. The clarity of this symbiotic relationship between compression and tension generates the essence of the chair's visual drama. The interaction of the two pieces—the frame and the fabric—was the simplicity I was searching for.
The weight of each chair type, of which there are five, varies from five to fifteen pounds. Extensive abrasion tests have been done on the fabric at the contact points. Thirty thousand repetitions of the abrasive test revealed minimal fabric wear. A two hundred pound sitting load was introduced through twenty thousand repetitions with no loosening of the Velcro connectors.
The chairs are intended for both outdoor and indoor use. A powder coated finish will be added to the steel frame for external durability. Rain and wind pass easily through the polyester fabric.
The Loop de Loop will be at the ICFF in the Javits Center in May in New York. At this time I cannot quote the exact price of each model. I can, however, quote myself from the New York Times article of May 22, 2014. “They will be both comfortable and affordable.”
William Pedersen FAIA