A few days after arriving in Australia for his exhibition at the RMIT Design Hub, chair designer Martino Gamper took a plain, broken, stackable classroom chair, as well as a couple of old household chairs donated by friends, and set to work on his latest piece.
“Chairs are an object that every designer tries to master,” says Gamper. “They’re supposed to be comfortable, look good, be elegant, be different. And they’re also an object we use every day, which needs to have a close relationship with our bodies.”
That’s a lot of challenges. And yet Gamper has added another. His project, 100 Chairs in 100 Days, takes a conceptual approach to the chair. Gamper asks, how can a chair be representative of its environment? How can it be “about” a place?
To that end, each item in the exhibition is a chair designed and built in a single day, using only parts from found chairs from whatever area Gamper finds himself in. When the exhibition tours to a new city, he removes one and adds a new hundredth chair to the series. The pieces have been Frankenstein-ed together from scraps found in London, Vienna, Milan and now, Melbourne.
“Every country or city has a particular way of designing and manufacturing, and a different culture,” says Gamper. “I start on the street. I work with chairs that people have rejected. That gives you an idea of what’s out there. It gives you a feel for the place.”
The Melbourne chair, a mishmash of materials and odd angles, doesn’t say anything in particular about Melbourne. It’s not there to be decoded or deciphered. It’s a hyperlocal representation of what Gamper found when he got here.
The concept started when Gamper was between commissions. “I started thinking about what a chair could be,” he says. “I spent a day with each one.” After a while, he realised it was a lot more than an experiment. “It was about taking designs apart and seeing how they work. Working out what the individual bits are and what they mean. You could call morphology.”
100 Chairs in 100 Days is at the RMIT Design Hub until April 9.