Ron Arad: No Discipline

ron arad well tempered chair

Ron Arad. Tempered Chairs. 1986

Sprung stainless steel and wing nuts
31 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 31 1/2" (80 x 100 x 80 cm)
Prototype by Vitra GmbH, Germany Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

PAOLA ANTONELLI: At the beginning of the 20th century, modern architects and designers believed in a truth to materials. They believed that steel would tell them how to be used, and wood would do the same, and glass and concrete. And I think that, in a way, Ron, as with everything else, goes beyond that. Sure he listens, but then he also doesn't, and he pushes it a little further.

RON ARAD: The idea was to do an easy portrait of a club chair. So I made the chair out of four pieces of, let’s say paper, to begin with. That are folded, two for the arms – one for the seat, one for the back. And I did it out of flat tempered steel that has no memory because you fold it and you let go – it straightens itself and there's no memory of the fact that it was bent once. And to make this idea clear the whole thing is fixed with wing nuts. That means that when you look at the piece you can actually imagine what happens when you undo them. That's why they're not welded or bolted in a more permanent way. It is a piece that's what you see is what you get. There is no illusion.

I knew it was going to be a reasonably comfortable piece. But what I didn't know is that the experience of sitting on it is different than any other thing you've ever sat on because it's made of stainless tempered steel, but it behaves like a waterbed because of the springiness of it." Peter Cook, the architect, once compared it to a dog that you think is scary and you are a bit reluctant to go near, but once you stroke it you realize what a friendly dog it is. I like that metaphor.

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