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Friday Focus - Vitra Vegetal Chair

Vitra Vegetal - a perfectly natural solution

There is apparently a long-running joke within IBM that their buildings don’t have windows, they have something called outside awareness ports. It’s an idea that not only reflects the culture of long hours spent staring at computer screens – something you don’t have to work for IBM to be aware of - but also one that acknowledges our need to be aware of the wider world when we are at work. Our gut instinct tells us that we are better off either outdoors or looking at it. There’s a very good reason why we feel better after some fresh air and some sunshine. It’s in our nature.

The research backs our gut instinct. A few years ago, a groundbreaking study into what make us productive at work was published by researchers Adrian Leaman and Bill Bordass. What they found, based on extensive research into a number of organisations, is that there are a number of ‘killer variables’ that affect productivity at work. Of the eight most important variables, two of them were defined as a ‘pleasant working environment’ and ‘a level of outside awareness’. In other words, our surroundings make us happier, less stressed and help us to work better. All the better, if we stay mindful to the existence of a world outside the office.

Obviously the best way of achieving an awareness of this outside world is by physically leaving the office (which also has the benefits associated with greater mobility) or at the very least looking out of the window. While there’s nothing like the real thing, new materials and technology also make it possible to bring an idea of the great outdoors into the building in other ways. Images of nature as well as indications of its textures, patterns and tones can have profound effects on individual wellbeing, delivering many of the same wellness benefits we associate with actual exposure to the natural world. That is why there is a growing demand for natural imagery and textures on the elements with which we furnish our offices. Our biophilia leads directly to the greater application of biomimicry because if we can’t have the real thing, we can still benefit from a sense of it.

A perfect example of this is the Vegetal Chair from Vitra. The designers Erwin and Ronan Bouroullec were briefed with the creation of a chair that would mimic natural forms but without compromising on durability or comfort. The result is a chair with a seat and back structure that intertwines like the leaves and stems of a plant and legs that seem to sprout from the Earth. Appropriately, it is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, can be stacked and is available in a choice of six colours as standard.

Of course, it would be a cynical betrayal of its core principle if the chair were not to possess outstanding green credentials. And so the chair is made from a single material – recyclable polyamide – and manufactured in a highly energy efficient way. A root and branch solution to a particular set of design challenges.

To find out more about the Vitra Vegetal Chair please click here.
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