There is a special way of saying when we talk about some pieces of furniture that have made the history of design, and that is “designing a function”. Which is very different from designing furniture. Designing a function means going beyond yet another model of table or chair: it means intercepting a need that is often not yet defined and giving it an aesthetic recognition that also becomes social.
They designed Charles and Ray Eames functions with their masterpieces, starting with the Lounge Chair with which they literally invented a new way to lie down and experience comfort. They designed a function Gatti, Paolini and Teodoro with the Sacco, the first armchair in history that does not impose its shape but models it around the human being.
The spirit of these intuitions relives in the research of young designers who started from the needs of a generation with habits that are difficult to harness in established standards and who design starting from a courageous reflection on ergonomics and new lifestyle habits. If home and office are confused in a hybrid dimension – as millions of adults in smart working have discovered by now – then hybrid is also the way to use our furniture, starting from the bed, on which – like it or not – they are always of more to write or work on the pc. It is up to the design to register these changes and return them in the form of furnishings, better still, of new functions.
This is what the Dutch Boris Lancelot tries to do with his experimental projects, developed in collaboration with the Free University of Amsterdam and the University of Groningen and in which he relives the lesson of a brilliant innovator such as Peter Opsvik, the Norwegian designer of Varier Balans and other chair models that have revolutionized the relationship between ergonomics and design. Active Classroom by Lancelot starts from the need for a new ergonomics for the little ones and tries to model a seating system for the school around the need to stay behind the desks for a long time without stiffening the body in the delicate period of growth. "At the moment," Lancelot explains, "together with researchers John van der Kamp and Simone Caljouw we are testing the effectiveness of these pieces. After a very promising first phase, a second one is underway, after which we will be able to go on the market ”.
Two years ago, Lancelot graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven with a thesis and a project, Techno Motion, also designed to give dignity to the poses and movements that we assume on office furniture that are considered wrong a priori. “There are no wrong poses”, replies the designer, “if anything, it is design that has not yet managed to model objects that respond to our need to move as freely as possible. With Active Classroom we started with children because they are more flexible and receptive: they can be the protagonists of the transition to a new ergonomic design. Then, it will be up to adults and Techno Motion ”.
Before Lancelot, who among his inspirations also cites the Primate seat by Achille Castiglioni and the Superonda sofa by Archizoom Studio, it was another Dutch under 30 designer, Geoffrey Pascal, who directly drew on the ergonomics standards set by NASA for astronauts with its collection of furniture that help not to completely unload the weight of the body on the back, but to distribute it over several points. Grafeoiphobia, literally "fear of the bench", was born from a very simple observation: the fact that Geoffrey and many of his peers work and study in small houses, and therefore often on the bed, assuming makeshift poses and reiterating them, with imaginable consequences on joints and back. Here then is the Basic Besk (from bed and desk), to sit in bed with a laptop on your lap and work up to three hours without causing damage to your back. Or the Triclinium Gum, an inclined frame that supports a mattress and an additional cushion to be placed between the legs, recommended for work up to half an hour. Or, again, The Flying Man: three pieces, one for the lower part of the legs, one for the torso and a desk for the laptop that has a reversible upper part so that it can also be used as a padded stool.
It seems superfluous to recall how present in these new bets is the lesson of Peter Opsvik and, in particular, of his Varier Balance chair, a classic of contemporary ergonomics: "The main lesson of Opsvik is that there is no human body but bodies" Lancelot explains, “and that each of these differ anatomically from each other. After all, the very concept of posture has evolved: today it is important not to assume a single position, but to be able to sit dynamically and alternate positions, to activate muscles that remain unused on conventional chairs ".