Co.Design

The Gaudi Chair: Historic Structure, Futuristic 3-D Printing

A chair modeled on centuries-old structural techniques, then manufactured virtually out of nowhere.

3-D printing is among the most futuristic technologies employed by today's designers. But the precision of the computer-driven process means that objects can be modeled almost exactly according to basic principles of nature. Take, for example, the new Gaudi Chair from Dutch designer Bram Geenan. Emulating Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi's approach, Geenan formed his chair by observing the geometry of metal chains suspended from a ceiling—the inverted arcs were Gaudi's way of identifying the strongest possible shape for structural arches in his churches.

Using computer-aided drafting software, Geenan translated the gravity-induced curve of the chains into a digital model, adding algorithms to create an equally sound structure for the backrest. In collaboration with Freedom of Creation, an Amsterdam-based research and design studio that specializes in 3-D printing technologies, Geenan then turned his CAD image into a refined piece of furniture.

The Freedom of Creation process involves dividing the digital model into several pieces, then laser-sintering the components, building up ultra-fine layers of carbon fiber and glass-filled nylon until an object forms. The video below briefly illustrates the high-tech transformation from physical to virtual, and back to physical (accompanied by atmospheric, presumably Gaudi-inspired Spanish guitar).

Furniture produced using 3-D printing is remarkable simply because of the rapid materialization of a finished product with no visible process. But Freedom of Creation's vision goes well beyond technological magic tricks. Founder Janne Kyttanen sees this approach as a solution for higher quality products and more sustainable manufacturing, alleviating the waste of material, energy, and money that currently weighs on consumer culture. Instead of transporting physical inventory, products could be sent as digital files, then printed in close proximity to where they are sold. Casting even farther into the future, Kyttanen imagines household 3-D printers, which would replace the limitations of retail with Internet-based browsing and on-demand, on-site production.

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