In 1972, while platform shoes, waistlines, and the first recorded Pong scores were high, a young boy in Norway was feeling, literally, pretty low. Thor had outgrown his high chair, and conventional furniture left him struggling for a place in the adult world, particularly at the family dining table. Luckily his father was Peter Opsvik, an industrial designer who has made a career of rethinking sitting and believes that children and adults should interact at the same level. Activated by his own son’s situation and aware of a universal need, Opsvik designed the Tripp Trapp chair, an innovative and completely adjustable high chair that can be used at any age.
Today over seven million Tripp Trapps have been sold. Here at MoMA, visitors to the Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000 exhibition will encounter a “Maxi” version of the design, made to provide adults with the point of view of a three-year-old. This interactive introduction to the exhibition facilitates an important perspective shift. It’s also really fun. In the video above, Opsvik and I give the “Maxi” set a go; as with many other examples from Century of the Child, this design success is not just about scale, but about empathy.
Century of the Child is on view in MoMA’s sixth-floor Special Exhibition Gallery through November 5.