At Home at Work

Designer interview with Antonio Citterio

ACX is the tenth office swivel chair that Vitra has developed in collaboration with Italian designer Antonio Citterio. Its construction, materials, production, logistics and maintenance are designed to achieve a long life cycle with the smallest possible carbon footprint.

ACX is your 10th task chair for Vitra. Can you tell us something about this impressive collaboration?

Antonio Citterio: Design is never a solitary exercise – it’s an integral part of the industrial production process. In my way of working, it would be impossible to imagine a product without starting with knowledge of the production technology. Design is not just a problem of expression, but something that encompasses all the different processes that go into a project. The designer needs to have an aesthetic vision and be actively involved in the process throughout the entire production cycle. And after 30 years of collaboration, I can say that this 10th task chair with Vitra is the result of continuous development, shared knowledge and a close, lasting partnership.

How has the development of a task chair changed since you started working with Vitra three decades ago?

Compared to the mid-1980s, sustainability and the final cost of a product have become increasingly important issues. Nowadays, competition doesn’t just concern quality, but also the overall cost, which is intrinsically connected to efficient production techniques. This means product design is increasingly linked to the overall vision of the production process.

How were these principles applied?

ACX introduces several innovative features. Extensive design research resulted in new solutions that could be applied to every key component, starting with the mechanical unit, which was significantly reduced in size. We even managed to partially conceal the mechanism within the seat base, achieving a slimmer and more lightweight appearance. Yet despite being more compact, the new mechanical unit is so technologically sophisticated that it instantly adapts to the user.

And what was the goal in the design process in terms of aesthetics?

The idea was to have an understated chair, with a reduced backrest and a warm array of upholstery colours, suited for both home offices and open-plan workspaces. Moreover, the unique backrest design has been obtained by associating a lower frame structure with a solid upper part, generating a slim appearance. In this manner, the chair can be easily integrated in office environments as well as home workspaces.

ACX has a new ‘automatic system’. Does that affect how it can be used in the office?

ACX can be used as a personal task chair, but it cannot actually be described as one. It is instead an ‘adaptive’ chair that allows flexible seating: the user no longer has to adjust the components to their own preferences, as the mechanism automatically adapts to the user’s weight. This means they can sit down to work at any workstation in an open-plan office and enjoy instant comfort, only needing to modify the seat height, if necessary.

Was sustainability on your mind while designing the new task chair?

The design process for ACX was guided by the decision to use recycled materials. When you use a recycled material, the design needs to adapt to its inherent characteristics, while the overall production process has to take the physical and mechanical qualities of the material into account. The structural elements in ACX are made of up to approximately 60 % recycled materials, depending on the model.

How did the product lifecycle influence the development and design?

The use of up to 100% recyclable material was the single most important factor in the design process. Nowadays you design with the product’s end of life in mind, trying to figure out how it can be easily dismantled and recycled to reduce waste.

What challenges did you face to make the chair 100% recyclable?

The main challenge was the idea of developing a chair that can be dismantled and separated into individual materials: studying joints and connections between the various components with a view to ensuring they are simple to disassemble for responsible waste disposal at the end of the product’s life.

Where else did the recyclability and sustainability play a role in your design?

The 3D knit fabrics are made of 100% recycled polyester and are the result of an elaborate development phase. The backrest covers are form-fitted and entirely without seams, and their revolutionary design means that no material is wasted during production and the cover can be easily replaced if necessary, which further enhances the chair’s sustainability.

As an architect, which needs and trends do you see in the office spaces you design today?

In recent years I have witnessed the introduction of nature in the work environment, the evolution of lighting design towards great attention to daylight, but, more importantly, I see the office environment becoming more and more collaborative, more relaxed, less hierarchical, with the emergence of more informal, flexible, multi-purpose meeting spaces and ‘disruptive’ elements derived from residential ambiances.

Date of publication: 9.10.2023
Images: Vitra; Gianluca Di Ioia;

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