June 6, 2012 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
For Milan Design Week 2012 at the Instant Stories exhibition by DMY in Ventura Lambrate, Berlin and Singapore-based architect Werner Aisslinger unveiled his Chair Farm–a living “plantation chair” produced in an agricultural lab.
Chair Farm’s steel corset trains a fast growing vine into the shape of a chair. Once the chair is formed, the corset is removed, and voilà, behold a chair. Like a plant, each chair is unique and is a thriving eco system intended to attract wildlife.
Aisslinger has been experimenting for years with new materials and sustainable production methods. ”This chair is not produced,” explains the designer, “in the classical sense of the word. Instead, it grows of its own volition in a greenhouse or on a field. When it has reached maturity, the steel corset is opened and removed, revealing a naturally grown chair.” To Aisslinger, Chair Farm represents the future of “furniture plantations” where chairs, and perhaps other pieces, can be grown on a large scale.
Growing a chair is merely a representation, according to Aisslinger, of a blossoming new activism. He believes that serial manufacturing should be rethought and instead, products should be created with resource-conservation and local production in mind.
“At the same time, a re-orientation towards collective living and working spaces is taking place. A good example for this is urban gardening, where residents open and share their garden space instead of having small individual allotments. In Berlin and other cities, project teams have formed which trade different kinds of services – car sharing, sofa surfing and urban gardening are no longer mere fashion statements.”
Aisslinger follows in the footsteps of other chair cultivators like Oregonian, Richard Reames whose Arborsmith Studios has been growing furniture, gazebos, bridges, and even tree houses from living trees since 1993. Reames, who authored the book How to Grow a Chair, was influenced by “arborsculpture” pioneers bean farmer, Axel N. Erlandson, and Wisconsin banker, John Krubsack.
Want to grow your own?
You can visit Reames’s website for a tutorial on how to grow your own chair. Australians, Peter Cooke and Becky Northley, founders of Pooktre, grow a living chair, garden table, and Tree People, tree whose trunks are grown to look like people. Cooke and Northley will even collaborate with you to design and plant your own piece on your property, guiding you every step of the way.