|Chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the dining room|
of the Frderick C. Robie house, Chicago (1909):
Sit up straight, or else.
Wright isn’t alone, however. Modern architects in general are notorious for their dreadful furniture designs. If you’ve ever sat in one of Marcel Breuers’s famed Wassily armchairs—designed in 1926 and still considered a paragon of Modernist style—you’ll know what I’m talking about. Stark and striking to look at, all black leather straps and chrome tubing, it’s nonetheless a trial to sit down in.
|Wassily chair: Like it or not,|
you're going downhill.
An even more renowned piece of architect-designed furniture is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair of 1929. To this day, it’s an expensive fixture in every snooty furniture outlet. But as lovely as it is to look at, it’s a sad excuse for a seat. The huge, gridded cushions don’t conform to one’s back or gluteus maximus; in fact, the slumping curve of the backrest opposes that of a normal spine. It’s just the seat to offer to guests whom you don’t want sticking around.
|Chair created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe|
for the German Pavilion at the
International Exposition in Barcelona, 1929.
Comfortable—if you're built like Gumby.
It’s ironic that the Modernists, who were always trumpeting functionalism, were the worst transgressors in the dreadful-furniture department. Modernist chairs might have been stunning works of art, but as objects intended for comfortable seating, they were often less functional than the most ormolu-encrusted chair of Louis XIV.
|The standard metal folding chair: More comfortable|
than any of the above—and not designed by an architect.
If you're interested, look up "Nathaniel Alexander".
No amount of well-meaning theory or rationalization will change people’s natural habits, however. If you like to sit on a chair sideways, or slumped down, or with your legs crossed, for example, you’re more likely to choose a chair that accommodates you than you are to adjust your behavior. Still, architects seem ever-hopeful that the power of their ideas can change the way people behave. And hey—sit up straight when you’re reading this.