The Ball Chair
The Ball Chair is perhaps the best known product designed by the Finnish top designer Eero Aarnio. In 1962 Aarnio quit his job as a designer for the furniture company Asko in Lahti, Finland, and became a freelancer. He had just moved to his first own house together with his wife. According to Aarnio they did not have a suitable big chair for the home, so he decided to design one in 1963.
The design process of The Ball Chair
Instead of designing a traditional armchair, Aarnio decided to do something completely new. In the end he got his vision of an upholstered seat placed inside half a ball made of fiberglass. After making the first plans, he pinned a full-scale drawing of the chair on the wall and sat next to it in a normal chair to be able to see how his head would move inside it. This is how Aarnio determined the Ball Chair’s height, which is 120 cm. The chair’s width is 105 cm and depth 98cm. After finalizing the plans he made the first prototype himself and even attached a telephone to it. Current Ball Chairs are available with music players attached.
Aarnio has stated that naming the Ball Chair was easy. Thanks to the unique shape, there was not much need to think about the chair’s name, since Aarnio always thought it should obviously be the Ball Chair, even though it is sometimes also known as the Globe Chair.
The Ball Chair was something totally new in the world of design. The shape of the chair was revolutionary and so was the material. In the time when other designers still mostly used wood and other “noble” materials, Aarnio made his chairs out of fiberglass. The actual seat inside the ball is upholstered. When sitting there, the voices from outside are muffled while the voices from inside the ball are amplified.
The Ball Chair went into production in 1965. The original colours were white, black, red and orange. The first time the Ball Chair gained huge publicity was next year at the Cologne furniture fair. It wasn’t expected to be a big success. Six chairs were originally ordered for the fair, but many people expected none to be actually sold. The chair proved to be a massive success, however. In a week the chair was sold into 30 countries and Aarnio’s career really took off.
The legacy of the Ball Chair
The Ball Chair went on to become one of the international fashion icons of the 1960s. Many have argued that the optimistic spirit that preceded the 1970s oil crisis is epitomized in this classic piece of modernistic furniture. The German newspaper Die Zeit feels that Aarnio’s works reflect a “naive belief in progress.” The notable German Vitra Design Museum has called the Ball Chair “a symbol of the optimistic and consumer-centric 1960s.” The museum has argued that the Ball Chair is part design, part architecture.
The American newspaper The Washington Post has described Aarnio’s style as timeless and so it’s no surprise that the Ball Chair has retained its success through the decades, even though the world has faced many a crisis since the optimistic Swinging Sixties. In later times the Ball Chair has been seen for example in the 1996 Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks! starring Jack Nicholson and Pierce Brosnan. The Egg Pod Chair that was designed based on the Ball Chair, but has a more egg-like form, was on the poster of Men In Black II with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
In addition to Hollywood, also the fashion world has appreciated the Ball Chair and its innovative design. For example Vivienne Westwood has used it in her fashion shows and the Spiegel Online magazine notes that secret agents as well as supermodels have sat in the Ball Chair.
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