There are many sides to MyChair, the first seating design by UNStudio, the brilliant German architecture firm behind such projects as the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, this stunning house in the same city, and the Hanjie Wanda Square in China. Launched in 2008 at the office furniture biennial Orgatec, MyChair is a slice of duotone foam (upholstered in Trevira, Kvadrat or leather) perched on a tubular steel base. The sculptural piece makes a different impression depending on which angle you view it, illustrating architect Ben van Berkel’s idea of the “after image.”
2 Spun by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis (2010)
London designer Thomas Heatherwick transforms everything he touches – from bridges and buses to Googleplexes – into its most surprising manifestation. For Magis, he designed this spinning top of a chair, made with rotational-moulded polypropylene or transparent polycarbonate. It captured everyone’s attention – and provided hours of delight – at the Milan furniture fair in 2010, and continues to be a standout.
3 Österlen by Inga Sempé for Gärsnäs (2011)
This is what you get when you pair an old Danish furniture manufacturer and a French designer known for her elegant touch: one of the most minimal ash wood chairs we’ve ever seen. The back is a wood-dowel loop carved to provide a flat surface for the sitter to rest his or her shoulders. The joints and legs are also strategically sliced in an ode to detail-oriented craftsmanship. It’s no wonder that Gärsnäs has been in business since 1893.
4 Hemp Chair by Werner Aisslinger (2011)
Talk about a grow op. Working with BASF, Werner Aisslinger introduced the world to the first natural-fibre monobloc chair. Made with hemp and kenaf, held together by a water-based resin binder, the piece looks a bit like a Panton chair – its swooping shape telegraphing a modern sensibility. While it’s not yet “in production,” Hemp Chair draws our attention to a future in which organic materials are just as structurally viable as plastics.
5 Gothic by Studio Job for Moooi (2011)
For the past 10 years, Antwerp design duo Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel have represented the artistic ambitions of contemporary design. They’ve incorporated subversive imagery – skulls, bones, religious iconography – into their cabinetry, tableware and wallpaper collections. Gothic, a chair they originally created for the renovation of the Groninger Museum, in the Netherlands, makes a strong statement on its own, without the surface embellishments. The rotational moulded chairs riff on the heavy wooden versions of the Gothic period – except in candy colours with contrasting buttons.
6 Miniscule by Cecilie Manz for Fritz Hansen (2012)
A modern chair with a mid-century vibe, Miniscule by Danish designer Cecilie Manz won an Award of Merit from the AZ Awards in 2013. Its appeal is obvious: the upholstered basket seat on its classic frame evokes the supple, rounded feel of water-smoothed stones.
7 Membrane by Benjamin Hubert for Classicon (2013)
Young British designer Benjamin Hubert is on a mission to eliminate wastefulness in furniture manufacturing. In Membrane, he supported the 3D woven textile body of the chair with an aluminum and stainless steel frame. Basing his design on sports apparel and tents, he was able to reduce extraneous materials – especially foam padding – and produce a chair that weighs only three kilograms and also treads lightly on the earth.
8 Fleurt by Andrew Jones for Battery Park (2014)
In 2016, Andrew Jones’ Fleurt chairs will be scattered around one of the biggest living rooms in the world: the 25-acre Battery Park in Manhattan. The Toronto designer’s competition-winning concept creates an iconic seat – a perforated steel shell on a stackable base – that when multiplied across the grass looks like a garden of flowers.
9 Uncino by the Bouroullecs for Mattiazzi (2014)
The fabulous Bouroullec brothers deliver another surprise with these task chairs for Mattiazzi that harken back to the heyday of Italian design dominance. Uncino, Italian for “hook,” features metal rods holding together the ash wood back and seat rests, which were carved and numerically milled for precision. This is super-symmetry at its finest.
10 East River Chair by Hella Jongerius for Vitra (2014)
One of our favourite interiors of 2013 was the redesign of the Delegates Lounge at the United Nations in New York. Dutch designer Hella Jongerius led on the design and created this playful chair for it that brings to mind her multi-upholstered Polder sofa. Combining wood, metal, leather and fabric, the piece is artful and unlike any other.