Chair for Spiderman

Custom Furniture | Cambridge, Ontario

In collaboration with: Richard Mui

(Process Booklet: click here)

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Overview

For the Structural Design Workshop, our class was arranged into groups of twos and asked to design a chair for a well-known figure of our choice. We chose Spiderman as we were intrigued by his ability to cling onto any surface in any orientation. The differences between a floor, a wall, and a ceiling become ambiguous as his actions are unencumbered by gravity. Using this observation as our point of departure, we explored in designing a chair that would allow the user to interact and perceive the object in a similar fashion as a Spiderman does; in an ever-changing form and function.

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Hence we established three design rules:

  1. All faces of the chair must interact with the user.
  2. The chair must appear different from multiple angles.
  3. A lightweight and yet monolithic structure.

To satisfy the constraints outlined above, we conducted multiple iterations before arriving at the final form. By treating the chair as a product of evolution from a simple rectangle, numerous deformations (twisting, carving, stretching, replicating, and shearing) were studied to determine the optimal form.

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The result is a rectangular mass with an arch indent, somewhat resembling a bridge. The simplicity of the arch and the leaning volume satisfies a variety of sitting positions and functions depending on the orientation to the ground. Like a building, the structure of the mass is designed as a shell envelope with lightweight internal framework. As the sheathing and the frame work together, such construction ensures robustness while reducing the weight of the chair for easy mobility.

Each component of the chair has been assigned its respective material with aesthetics and structure in mind. For the sheathing, baltic birch has been chosen as it is the most commonly manufactured product. Aircraft plywood had to be used to account for curved face of the chair. In addition to its considerable strength, its flexibility yields to bending in a vacuum bag. For the frame, ash has been chosen as hardwood enables angle joinery while providing a high level of rigidity.

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  1. We made a component assembly mock-up to help us visualize how the sheathing was fixed to the frame. In doing so, we were able to identify and tackle certain difficulties in assembling
    the frame, as acute angles made it almost impossible to screw the angles with a hand drill.
  2. It was necessary to consider ergonomics in determining the optimal geometry. Therefore we constructed a 1:1 foam mock-up to study the scale and shape of the chair. As a result, we were able to observe that our initial design was overly bulky, and hence we reduced the size of the chair and made the curvature of the indent more generous.
  3. In order to test the maximum capacity to which aircraft plywood can bend without cracking, we constructed a small jig on which pressure was applied to maintain the plywood in its bent shape until the glue dried. Despite the exaggerated curvature the outcome was fairly successful. The bent wood was strong enough to withstand a full-grown adult standing on it.
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Software: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Rhino 5
Hardware: Lasercutter, CNC Router, Woodworking Machinery