The Art of the Chair: 10 Nendo Creations

Alden Rose Alden Rose

Nendo’s cofounder and chief designer Oki Sato observes stories all around him. He has dedicated his life to observation of the everyday and the ordinary. For him, the most successful designs begin as simple ideas that evoke an honest and empathetic response from people. Sato cherishes what he calls the “!” moments in design, when a product or place is able to provide a simple yet evocative experience.

Fellow Japanese design titan Naoto Fukasawa reflects upon a similar preoccupation with what he calls the Super Normal: “It’s much more of a quietly seen unseen, a refreshing surprise that awakens the person who had thought of looking for something obviously special in design by instead reconfirming what we already hold important … Things that possess a quality to shake us back to our senses are ‘Super Normal.’” Much of Nendo’s work occupies this space, combing through our daily experiences, seeking to resonate with a hidden part of ourselves.

For Nendo, the chair is an archetype, an object normalized through repeated and unconscious use. Sato acknowledges the self-consciousness inherent in the act of design and uses this to elevate the humble chair. He imbues each chair with a story, a type of visual dynamism, showing growth, separation, self-restraint and affection. Each design is simple yet clever, asking for little in return and hoping to share a moment of insight with the viewer.

Cabbage Chairfor 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, curated by Issey Miyake
Issey Miyake, the renowned Japanese fashion designer known for his pleated ensembles, requested a chair made from the pleated paper that is normally thrown away in the process of making pleated fabric. There is no assembly necessary and is instead designed to be shipped as a roll that the user gets to peel him or herself. The chair builds on the Miyake mantra “Don’t just wear clothes, but shed their skin.”

Twig Chairfor Alias
The Twig chair’s arms and back jut out spontaneously from the base, branching into different sections and configurations. The arms and back can easily be removed from the base to allow for more efficient storage and transportation.

Thin Black Linesfor Phillips de Pury
The Thin Black Lines chairs were designed for a solo exhibition by Phillips de Pury at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Nendo explains that the “designs gently break the relationship of before and behind and traverse at times the space between two and three dimensions.”

Mimicry Chairsfor Victoria and Albert Museum
Designed as part seating, part installation, the Mimicry chairs are placed in 10 different locations throughout the Victoria and Albert Museum. Each chair was modified to mimic the space and objects around it, providing visitors a new point of view and engagement with the museum.

Transparent Chairfor Milan Design Week
The Transparent chair is made from polyurethane and uses the material’s natural elasticity to allow the chair to stretch when sat on and then return to its original shape when vacated. The choice of a clear polyurethane gives the effect of the user floating above the ground.

Drawing from the world of women’s fashion, the Heel chair resembles the spiked heel of a stiletto shoe. The back legs curve out from the body of the chair to rest directly underneath the backrest to give the chair stability.

Tokyo Tribal Collectionfor industry+
Developed for a Singaporean design company, the Tokyo Tribal collection attempts to merge manufacturing and craftsmanship by combining simple wooden frames with handmade bamboo rattan woven by artisans in the Philippines.

Splinter for Conde House
This chair was designed as if a piece of wood is splintering and giving way to new forms and features. They were careful to work with the grain of the wood to maintain both strength and pliability for the chairs.

Float for Moroso
This chair creates the illusion that the seat is floating above the base by cutting off the legs from the bottom of the seat. The cantilever used to hold the seat up provides a springy effect for the sitter.

Sudarefor Sugita Ace
Made as an extremely versatile piece of outdoor furniture, the Sudare can fold up into a dividing screen, fold out into a table or become a chair. Each piece of furniture is determined by combining various base and blind configurations.

Single-Curvefor Gebrüder Thonet Vienna
Gebrüder Thonet Vienna is well known for its bent plywood products. The Single-Curve chair is a subtle take on bentwood furniture, employing only a single bend in each piece. The viewer often has to look carefully to identify where the bend is.


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