Launched at the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this year, Wilkhahn’s new Chassis chair is the typically innovative outcome of a collaborative and cross-disciplinary design process. Working in partnership with Munich-based furniture maker and industrial designer Stefan Diez, Wilkhahn has created a tautly honed multi-purpose chair that not only embodies the enviable sleekness of contemporary sports cars, but also exploits the precise and progressive technologies that are used in their manufacture
The fluid form of Chassis is an exercise in lean functionality, beautifully pared down in order to optimise material use and manufacturing processes and also to minimise waste.
The chair’s steel frame and polypropylene shell fuse to become an almost seamless, organic entity that combines strength, comfort and durability.
Developed following exhaustive research and testing, Chassis was initially conceived as a lightweight, contoured ‘frame and membrane’ seat. The concept behind the design is rather like a bicycle saddle: a stylish load-bearing structure made of steel and covered in a thin, elastic shell.
However, this enduring and appealing archetype has been redefined by the modern technologies and processes of the automotive industry. The first prototypes were fabricated from 11 hand-crafted pieces and the chair’s form was gradually refined by Diez over the course of two years.
Following extensive consultation with automotive suppliers in Germany and the Netherlands, a method was found to utilise the space-frame technology of vehicle-body manufacture to fabricate the Chassis chair frame, the first time that a piece of furniture has been produced in this way.
The design process involves using deep-drawing steel sheet to form the complex, three-dimensional shapes of the backrest frame and legs. The press applies 300 tonnes of pressure to distort and configure the steel sheet into the slim, lightweight skeleton of the backrest frame.
Leftover pieces are used to form the four legs and connecting elements, so the process is economical, with practically no wastage and materials that can be recycled.
A robotic welder joins together the ‘chassis’ of steel frame, legs and connecting pieces, and then the detachable shell of unitary seat and backrest is fixed into place.
Ergonomically designed, the fine-grained polypropylene shell is a mere 4mm-thick, and acts like a membrane when stretched across the steel frame.
Weighing only 5.4kg, Chassis is extremely lightweight and stackable, making for ease and convenience of handling. Suitable for work and home use, applications for this versatile, multi-purpose chair include meeting rooms, canteens, dining tables and studios.
Chassis is also available in a range of textile seat shells, developed in collaboration with fashion designer Farah Ebrahami. Combined with different coloured frames, this choice of options expands the Chassis repertoire, so designers can use it like a tool box, combining seat and frame to fit in with any interior or setting.