Year of design: 2019
Client: Magis

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In 2017 Euginio Perrazza requested we design a light weight magnesium chair which expresses the unique qualities of magnesium. With this brief in mind we set out to design a chair that would be right for magnesium in both shape, structure and function.

After a comprehensive exploration of the magnesium’s properties and manufacturing possibilities, we decided that we wanted to deal with stacking as a main idea, because due to the magnesium’s lightweight we thought that the best expression of it lightness in the context of a chair is to design a chair that is intended to be picked up.

Our aim was to design a long-lasting, sustainable, and elegant magnesium chair that would be the “go to” chair for cafes and restaurants, public spaces and residential spaces that needed the versatile functions offered by a light weight stacking chair. The goal of the design was to design a chair that would be comfortable, light-weight, compact and most importantantly have the ability to infinitely and tightly stack upwards.

Because we wanted the chair to fit for both residential and public environments, we designed the stackibikity to be discreet as possible. In addition, because we wanted the chair to be visually fit for indoor as well as outdoor, we wanted to find alternatives to element that are specifically identified with outdoor chairs such as draining holes. For this reason, we designed the seat so that water cascades to the openings in the backrest and eliminate the need of the draining holes in the seat.

The project is a result of a close fertile collaboration between Magis and our studio.

After deciding on the typology of the vertical infinite stacking chair, we started to think how the Magnesium can contribute to this typology with qualities other than its lightweight. One special characteristic of the Magnesium that we were especially interested in, is that Magnesium can be cast extremely thin walled, even as thinly as 1.5 mm. But using such a thin thickness would not be structural enough for seating, so we looked for ways to strengthen a thin sheet. In order to explore this direction, we worked with Aluminum foil models and made fine 3 dimensional textures to strengthen it.

But the fine textures did not result in enough strength so we attempted to also incorporate more significant strengthening 3 dimensional details such as X indents across the corners of the foils.

From the X mockups, we got the idea to extend the L shaped indent on the seat to the legs which resulted in L shaped legs just like in plastic Monoblock chairs. This was an unintentional “A-Ha” moment for us, understanding that we could use similar strategies of strengthening thin walled parts used in injected molded plastic parts for die cast Magnesium parts.

Continuing to explore plastic strategies for magnesium, we realized that while Monoblock chairs have a thick silhouette which is needed for strength, the Magnesium enables a thin and elegant silhouette, due to its strength compared to plastic.

Initially, we designed the stacking by cutting the backrest on the sides, releasing material for the legs of the chair to stack through. But, these strategies resulted in an apparent stacking that gave the chair an institutional character that was not suited for many indoor and settings.

With an intent on making a more discreet stacking, we had the idea to stack the legs through holes in the backrest. Initially, we made one large opening, but understanding this would not be structural enough we gradually added the center part of the backrest. Another change at this stage was that we started working with a round seat.

We also gave a lot of attention to the chairs legs. Our goal was to design the leg’s profile to be as thin as possible, in order to allow for a tight stacking. The curve of the profile allowed us to have the profile thin in its depth at any given point, but have an overall thicker bounding box which gave us the structural properties we needed.

We worked and refined the idea of the chair and got to what we thought was the final version.

A day before the presentation we made one last change to the design of backrest. This was the initial concept we presented to Magis.

First 1:1 prototype evaluation at Magis.

Vela is presented at Salone del Mobile 2019.