At Nilufar Gallery, Martino Gamper stands beneath the rainbow archway of his L’Arco Della Pace bookcase – a riff on the polychrome fountain of Ercol chairs the London designer installed in the courtyard of the V&A during September’s London Design Festival.
The designer also presented chairs in half-wood, half-rubber, off-cut tables, and House Plan, a hand-knit rug that depicts, to scale, the floor plan of a 1930s-era Milanese flat (visible on the floor).
With his exhibition “100 chairs in 100 days” Martino Gamper celebrated the fact that there is no perfect chair by studying and reassembling every archetype in a somewhat impulsive fashion.
Martino Gamper’s practice derives from an abiding interest in the psycho-social aspects of design. In particular, he has a love of corners and the multiple emotions provoked by the simple, single, right-angled boundary. Alongside this concern with under-used spaces, Gamper also nurtures an interest in unwanted objects. Behind each of Gamper’s pieces, there is a story: one that involves materials, techniques, people and places. The finished product is a token of all that combined.
For him, the aesthetic exists in the look of something as it sits in the brief interlude between being made and being used. His contribution to Scenarios is to involve functional seating, to fully emphasize the imaginative experience. He chose the archetype of a chair as the form that can convey a very clear message about function and use.
According to Gamper the act of sitting also means being able to concentrate and focus on something else – sitting allows the mind do the work rather then the body. Hence Martino Gamper’s contribution will encompass both sound and furniture, and the different elements will partially mutate into a physical experience incorporating the body of the visitor
100 Chairs in 100 Days
by Martino Gamper
5 Cromwell Place, Londo
2–15 October 2007
This project involves systematically collecting discarded chairs from London streets (or more frequently, friends’ homes) over a period of about roughly two years, then spending 100 days to reconfiguring the design of each one in an attempt to transform its character and/or the way it functions. My intention is to investigate the potential for creating useful new designs by blending together stylistic or structural elements of existing chair types.
I see this as a chance to create a ‘three-dimensional sketchbook’, a set of playful yet thought-provoking designs that, due to the time constraint, are put together with a minimum of analysis. As well as possibly making one or more designs that might be suitable for mass production, I intend to question the idea of there being an innate superiority in the one-off, to use this mongrel morphology to demonstrate the difficulty of any particular design being objectively judged ‘the best’. I also hopes my chairs illustrate – and celebrate – the geographical, historical and human resonance of design: what can they tell us about London, the sociological context of seating from different areas, and the people who owned each one? The stories behind the chairs are as important as their style or even their function.
The project suggests a new way to stimulate design thinking, and provokes debate about a number of issues, including value, different types of functionality and what is an appropriate style for certain types of chair – for example, what happens to the status and potential of a plastic garden chair (conventionally located slap bang in the idiom of unremarkable functionality) when it is upholstered with luxurious brown suede? In essence, this exercise champions a certain elasticity of approach – both in terms in highlighting the importance of the sociological/personal/geographical/historical context of design, and in enabling the creative potential of elements of randomness and spontaneity to be brought to the fore.
His creation of the Sessel for Established and Sons was driven by a fascination of the traditional bentwood archetype and the way in which its industrialised production has been mastered throughout its 150 year long history. Aspiring to create his first production chair, Gamper dissembled the bentwood archetype to then rejoin the components and letting the assembly of the pieces create the Sessel’s shape. Rather than aiming to revolutionise the bentwood chair,
Gamper decided to tweak the iconic original. He intelligently added strength to the joins through square bentwood panels eliminating the need for a supportive ring and creating a more angular aesthetic. Gamper further injected his own spirit by utilizing different woods and colours. True to his nature of enjoying ongoing design development, Gamper thereby created multiple configuration possibilities of the Sessel.