2015 VMODERN Furniture Design Competition
I-Ting Tsai, Xixi Zheng, Yiru Yun, and Somdatta Majumdar
Daniel Widrig, Soomeen Hahm and Stefan Bassing (tutors, Bartlett School of Architecture, UK)
Fabric chair design is about creating a complex three-dimensional form from a flat sheet, using the traditional art of stitching. This felt composite creates structurally strong, intricate fluid shapes without the help of any mold or formwork which other materials like fiberglass would need.
Fabric in architecture and furniture has long existed but the invention of a composite that makes the fabric the main structural material is unique. Choosing a common off-the-shelf material like fabric and exploring its limits in another dimension was the motive behind this project. This technique of designing the two dimensional pattern which will fold up to the final object is like ‘fabric origami’.
Initially, different types of fabric were studied taking in consideration their elasticity, rigidity, permeability, etc. Initial concept prototypes were created to experiment this technique for smaller objects where double curvatures and the deformations of each pattern of the sheet were studied in detail to understand the forces behind the final forms achieved.
The same process of a machine cutting the felt and letting the fabric stand on its own while the composite is hardened created the chair design. The fabric itself becomes the legs, seat and backrest. The chair was created to show the potential of this design invention, which allows the transition from a 2D surface to a 3D object. Seamless designs are rare due to material size restriction but like the chair made of many components, it can create furniture with no visual seams.
The hardening material had to be very light to not deform the fabric with its weight. After lots of permutations and combinations of applying hardening materials to the fabric and checking different ratios of mixtures we came up with a particular ratio of some special resins. Once the chair is folded to its final form and attached to the scaffolding at minimum places, the resin is applied and the complex organic form freezes. Thus when the scaffolding is removed, the chair is rigid and strong.
The fabric is hard as stone in some places and soft in some parts, which is quite a unique feature, which most materials don’t offer. The overall texture still feels like felt, which is soft and warm. The material is breathable in the soft parts letting air to pass through and has a cozy comfortable cushion feel to it.
The Fabric chair challenges our minds, as fabric is not considered to be a strong material able to hold its own form.