Champagne days, La-Z boy nights

Sep 30, 2009
  • Article by Gillian Serisier
  • Photography by Christian Mushenko
  • Designer

Since 2680 BCE when the Egyptians first made chairs (that survive today), people have been honing the design towards the ultimate in comfort and style. In that time the chair has seen more manifestations than just about any design form, including those lovely Egyptian thrones that Mies van der Rohe transformed into the Barcelona chair. Fashion, religious significance, comfort and technology have all played a part in the evolution of the chair, which is now being recognised as a design expression worthy of museums such as Vitra. There has also been a consumer response by way of collectors to match, with specific auctions garnering extraordinary prices. In February of this year an Eileen Gray (1878-1976) leather armchair, Fauteuil Aux Dragons, Vers, 1917- 1919, fetched €21,905,000 (Christie’s Paris), the highest price ever paid for a chair and the second highest ever paid for a piece of furniture.

In short, chairs are the ultimate means to demonstrate a contemporary design vernacular, while champagne is quintessential to celebration. Bringing them together for the Living Edge and Chandon Night was a brilliant little competition that challenged each designer to create a miniature chair using the cork, gold foil, cap and cage of two Chandon bottles. Open to industry professionals only (interior designers and architects), the result was an abundance of diminutive golden treasures of singular delight!

The majority of entries chose to exercise their modelmaking skills to recreate the classics of Bauhaus design. Current design laws make it somewhat imprudent to put an unregistered design on display, so the tendency towards tribute over original content must be forgiven. Charles Eames was well-represented with several versions of the ever popular Eames lounge (670) and ottoman (671) 1956, for Herman Miller recreated in shimmering gold and the warmth of cork. Woven foil versions of Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chair, 1952 for Knoll were also much in evidence as was the lovely curve of Vernon Panton’s Panton chair, 1968.

The competition was fierce with some delightfully whimsical chairs including a traditional café chair in the shape of a skull, and a pedal powered wheel lounge that dangles a bottle of Chandon just beyond the pedaller’s reach. Chin Foong (Bates Smart) created a delightful dotty tribute to sixties cool meets Leunig curl with a chair of lovely lines. Sally Evans (Jackson Architecture) created a wonderful version of Eero Aarnio’s Ball chair, 1966. Honourable mentions went to Kay Nelson, Cathy Jameson (Geyer) and Belinda Wright (Tobias Partners).

Third place and an Eames Hang it All went to Jo Turner of FJMT for her outlandishly rococo extravaganza of curls and twirls. As one of the few designs to reference beyond our immediate aesthetic it was a delight to see the judges were viewing with enough panache to recognise a feast of whimsy when they saw it. In fact the judging was very good with solid choices all round.

Second prize and an Eames Rocker went to Edward Wong of Idiom Design for a beautifully realised pair of simple chairs. In shape they could be likened to a solid version of Rene Coulon and Jacques Adnet’s French glass chair, circa 1932. The sensitive use of materials, perforated in a repeating circular pattern for seat, and back-rest enclosed within a plain but branded sheet, made for a solid and elegant pair of chairs with exceptional balance and proportion.

Jon Voss of Rice Daubney took home first prize of a beautiful Eames lounge chair and ottoman for his elegant and finely proportioned lounge chair. Tiny pillows of cork resting on arms of wire form a dainty support that floats like vertebrae above an all but invisible frame that continues to legs that presumably provide a gently bouncing suspension.

The competition may have been small, but it was awfully steep with more than 220 shortlisted entries and 60 chosen for display. The display itself should also get a mention as a simple elegant design solution that minimised fuss and firmly focused attention of the tiny treasures. Having the work suspended in a line weighted with sandbags meant viewers were able to get a three-dimensional experience of the work without the precarious problems of a lot of solo pedestals. The response, both in terms of calibre of entries and viewer pleasure has been extremely positive – hopefully positive enough to turn this one-off into an annual event.

1 Main display at the Living Edge showroom in Surry Hills, Sydney
2 First prize: Jon Voss of Roce Daubney
3 Second prize: Edward Wong of Idiom Design
4 Third prize: Jo Turner of FJMT
5 Katharina Schadek
6 Alexander Suen
7 Maggie Warrell
8 Bill Yang

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