In an industry that has become obsessed with chairs, whether it be the organic curves of the Eames Rocker, the elegance of Mies van der Röhe's Barcelona chair or the simplicity of Verner Panton's S-shaped chair, it is surprising to think that the most used and globally recognised seat is the Monobloc, or as we know it, your everyday white plastic chair.
Everyone at every level sits on them somewhere. They have a kind of egalitarian ubiquity. From the back gardens of sunny suburbia, to exotic pool side patios, from allotment sheds and bingo halls to dusty, war-torn guerrilla out-posts, this chair is always there.
Millions have been produced since their debut in the early 1980s. In fact today every 70 seconds a Monobloc chair pops out from a single press.
The early versions sold for $50 each, but as more were manufactured, the price dropped to less than $3. Today they are being manufactured in Russia, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, US, Italy, France, Germany, Morocco, Turkey, Israel and China, and although landfill sites are being clogged up with them, millions continue to be made.
However, despite its popularity, no one seems to know exactly who designed it. Some research suggests it was Italian designer Vico Magistretti that first invented the fantastically clever injection-moulded one-piece, while others believe it to be Danish designer Verner Panton. In this case, it seems that the mystery surrounding its origin just adds to its paradoxical and pretentious nature. Basic, white and structurally pared down, yet simultaneously shaped like thrones, basket chairs and wood carved chairs from previous centuries.
Recent years have seen a wave of designers attempting to give this very cheap, very light and very anonymous chair a new lease of life. To inverse and reverse it. To make it noticed for all of its aspirational aching to be more than just ordinarily ordinary.
So, seeing as it’s the summer, we thought it would be fitting to take a look at the best and worst of the more recent re-designs. And perhaps to suggest, that if you were thinking it’s about time someone re-invented the good old Monobloc, you may want to think again.
A case of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’....we couldn’t say.
For more information and images on the Monobloc chair see Jens Thiel´s website.
A big thanks to Jens Thiel for a great deal of information and images related to this post.