Friday, 11 June 2010

Eliav Digs Dutch Designers

EliavchairOne day, whilst pretending to work with my friend and esteemed colleague Hoffy (she's the one i tricked into taking me to get the lumber for my Roubo), i stumbled upon this guy Juan's blog post in which he describes his 1/2 scale build of Rietveld's classic Red and Blue Chair for his son Hugo. That was it. Hoffy and i knew we had to make one for either the kid on the way (Oria, a beautiful baby girl, now two months old), or her son Eliav (he's two and gorgeous). It seemed logical that Eliav should be compensated for the traumatic experience awaiting him, (and it will be a while before Oria can sit!) so the chair was scaled to 2/3 size. Despite its appearance, the chair is rumoured to be quite comfortable, but because it tilts back, i did not expect Eliav to want to sit in it for longer than it took to take a photo to appease his mother and myself. But apparently, if Hoffy is to be believed, he loves his little chair! As they might say in their family, der Apfel fellt nicht gerne weit vom Baume.

Below is a CGI animation of the chair:

Gerrit Rietveld chair from Max Philip on Vimeo.

This chair had huge implications for design, and we have discussed the unique Dutch conception of space in the context of football (link).

For Anthony C. Romeo's interesting article on Rietveld's chair and the unification of motion and rest, click here. It's a great, short read. Andries van Onck's site has a very in-depth analysis of Rietveld's chair, including some fascinating sections about the various kabbalistic sephirot; it will blow your mind.

On a personal level, i definitely learnt a lot more about the ideas of De Stijl from building the piece. When all the components were laid out on the floor, it seemed hard to believe that they would eventually constitute a chair (though i must confess, i did have some doubts!). It seemed so...abstract! I wasn't so struck by the design until i started making the piece. Then, and i apologise for the vagueness, i just seemed to fall into the piece; it had some hypnotic effect; the more i looked at it and interacted with it, the more entranced i was. I know that sounds totally fruity, but it's true. I also came away with an appreciation for just how strong the joints are. There--that was a more rational, concrete comment. It was like creating a 3D Mondrian painting. The symmetry of the piece always amazed me; the way the overhang on every intersecting point was the same, and how the piece seemed so mathematically...uniform (I'm easily impressed in maths, since i have little to no understanding of it). Some concepts cannot be conveyed with words, and there is an understanding that you cannot come by through books. Indeed, Rietveld himself regarded his furniture design as experimentation with ideas, as studies. David Pye wrote about this, and for a frequent blog on this topic, Doug Stowe's blog (Wisdom of the Hands) is a must-read. Those interested in the technical execution of the piece can view the building process on this little slideshow:


  1. geweldig post!

  2. very nice work and it looks like a very happy customer! Did you dowel the Rietveld joints?


  3. Bedankt. U bent zeker iemand in mijn familie! Dus, hartelijk gefeliciteerd!

    TK-doweling the damn joints took the longest time. They were bigger than my bit so i had to pare them down. I think i will buy pre-cut dowels next time i am in the states, which will be in August...