Letting the idea grow

The HAL chair family has gained a new member

The extensive HAL chair family by Vitra has gained a new member: the compact HAL Lounge Chair, a comfortable four-legged armchair. In this interview, designer Jasper Morrison describes how the shape of the chair evolved. And why he’s crazy about Danish furniture classics.

Like many of your designs, the HAL Lounge Chair is a reinterpretation of a common furniture typology – in this case, an armchair. What questions did you ask yourself during the design process?

Well, it’s not so much about questions. It’s sort of a remembering of all the armchairs which I’ve seen. And then trying to configure that into a shape which summarises an armchair. So you try to get the essential, basic shape. Trying to put it together in a way that expresses ‘armchair’, and also comfort, and maybe gives it a visual longevity, so that it’s not going to look ridiculous in five years’ time. That’s the starting point, and the drawing comes later.

Over the years, have you found any kinds of creative routines or strategies to approach the shape?

It’s important not to work too quickly. Not to go straight to drawing, but just to keep the possibilities in your mind a bit and think them through. Let the idea grow a little bit, before you determine it. If you start drawing immediately, then you’re already limiting what will come out.

How can a piece of furniture like the HAL Lounge Chair express or evoke the notion of comfort?

Curves tend to express comfort. But if you use too many curves, the object loses its tension. So it’s a question of finding that balance between straight lines and curves. In the case of an armchair, the shape of the front is very important, how the line comes up to the arm and how it transitions to the backrest. The chair should entice you to sit down and lean back naturally.

In the process of designing it, I started to understand that this type of armchair is actually the type of leisure seating that is used the most. A sofa is the showpiece of everybody’s living room. You’re more likely to sit there with the family and watch TV. But if you want to read a book or sit for any length of time, this kind of armchair is where you will go for comfort.

You already mentioned the topic of longevity. As a designer, how do you avoid too many influences from current trends or fashions?

Well to be honest, I don’t pay much attention to them. I probably should look around a bit more. That used to be different. There was a phase when I thought it was important to know what everybody else was doing.

Where do you look instead for inspiration?

I have a sort of addiction to Danish furniture, the classics. So I follow a lot of auctions, and I’ve learned a lot about Danish designs through those auctions. That may be how I discovered Børge Mogensen, for example. I think they worked in the most amazing way, when you look at that level of craftsmanship and the quality of the materials. It’s still a good lesson for us today.

Publication date: 3.11.2021
Images: © Vitra

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