Silhouette Chair – based on an Open Source Concept

Carving fragments of their culture into valuable objects is ancient human behavior. This way they tell and define their individual and collective identity. Silhouette Chair overthrows the unambiguous modern identity of efficiency, for the sake of human being.

Silhouette Chair is a folding chair based on an open source concept developed for REGIONALE 2025 Bergisches Rheinland. This structural development program of the state of NRW supports and qualifies a variety of projects with the aim of making the structures of the Bergisches Rheinland area fit for the future. The REGIONALE 2025 folding chair design was initiated, to create a symbol of high recognition value for the program. It is to be integrated in various places – physically at events or at project locations but also medially on the website and newsletter.

Originally looking for one single chair design, that can be produced at mostly any carpentry, the open source concept rethinks that commission by making a step back and questioning the exakt communicative strategy of the desired chair. So instead of creating a third party finished product, the open source concept allows the projects and companies of the region to truly present themselves in full diversity and capability. By including the individual design and crafting of every different chair into the communicative process, a fun experience of empowerment and responsibility is created. A potential video series that accompanies each projects own journey towards their unique folding chair, offers far more entertainment value and identification potential, as opposed to presenting one single flawless folding chair.

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The open source concept places value on innovation through social proximity. Regional characteristics are established by individual creative craft and profession, thriving of the available natural resources. Since the REGIONALE 2025 only exists because of the variety of projects and companies, the chair design also is not bound to one definite look, but to the projects it resembles themselves. It is them, who use the construction concept to build and design their own chair. 

The Silhouette Chair is Leo Le Bots personal interpretation of the open source concept. Using the basic measurements and construction provided, Silhouette Chair alters the shape and surface of the leech and seat, as well as the hooking mechanism. The Result is a lightweight folding chair, that merges traditional woodworking and illustration.

Good design must consider its products circulation as a whole. Whether it be the selection of materials, the type of processing, the use, the repair or the return to the ecological cycle. The folding chair for the REGIONALE 2025 should also live up to this understanding. Never the less, it only does so much as its creators do. This symbol of economic change towards sustainability can not be faked, since its formulation in practice is not set be externalized. The Design is setting a focus on the humans themself, rather than the finished product. It is their character and profession that give true meaning to the folding chair symbol.

Download the construction plan above by clicking on it. You are welcome to use, share and modify the concept to create your own folding chair. The plan is ready to be taken to the workshop and leaves room for individual notes on the right. The basic design requires minimal tools and material to build. The wood can easily be cut to length by hand and put together using screws or nails. Even the rotating mechanism is accomplished by using single screws. The positioning of the crossbar on the rear legs allows you to change the angle of the seat and backrest. Other dimensions are also widely modifiable, regardless of the design. The chair could be transformed into a bench or a deck chair using the same construction principles.

The Silhouette Chair combines a simplistic frame made of oak wood with a thin seat and back rest cut from anthracite colored wood based material HDF. Yet the materials and colors are not its priority in defining aesthetics. It is the slim straight forward shape merging with surfaces, that look rather drawn or ruffly cut by scissors as opposed to todays usual woodworking procedures. 

By adding a wide flatting towards the edges, the HDF breaks free from usual distinction and presents itself, as if it was stone like. The chair is telling about the discrepancy between appearance and reality, as well as between movement and standstill. 

While drawing on furniture is widely dismissed as non-functional decoration, Silhouette Chair makes the opposite statement. Using a spherical router head on an angle grinder, curly, antique-looking objects, figures, animals and plants are milled freehand into the seat and backrest. The resulting illustration is not a redundant on top, but defines the aesthetics, haptics and positioning of the chair in space at its core. Situated below the surrounding surface, the imagery changes drastically when light hits it from different angles. Thus the chair must be moved to fully capture its aesthetics and becomes completely absorbed in its nature as a folding chair.

The illustrations show fragments of Leo Le Bots everyday life, as well as elements connected with his close family. Coming from a family of classical musicians, the stroke is emphasizing playing an instrument. The illustrations are not constructed, but repetitively done over and over until finally the right one appears.

Wether it be pipes, hiking poles, walls or thrones, carving fragments of their culture into objects of value is ancient human behavior. The social claim the 20th century of reducing ornament and increasing functionally in furniture making, in order to mass produce affordable furniture for everybody, has bitten its own tail. Furniture today is often cheaply produced and aesthetically interchangeable, so that a careless throwaway culture has become established. This practice is ultimately part of the rapid destruction of the ecosphere. The resulting damages will firstly and mostly hit yet again the socially disadvantaged. Silhouette Chair is thus meant to be a political statement promoting autonomy and longevity.