We take a closer look at the new Bruno armchair, a design that takes into account a new language of sitting.
On the eve of the London Design Festival, we talked to Ilse Crawford and Oscar Peña about their first design for SCP, the Bruno armchair. At first glance, Bruno is a little confounding, it’s lopsided in a way that very few chairs are. It’s also large for an armchair, with plenty of space to move around in, which is in fact exactly what the design intends.
“It’s called Bruno, because the Bruno Munari poster ‘Seeking Comfort in an Uncomfortable Chair” is a much loved studio piece.” Explains Ilse. The poster, which is a collection of photos of a man trying to sit in a chair in multiple different contorted ways, is from a series of Munari photos published in Domus in 1944. “From our experience over the years and especially when we were doing the Cathay Pacific air lounges, nobody sits the way they are supposed to, everybody sits in a different way. I think culturally we sit in a more relaxed way, left to right, just more casual. We mostly don’t sit front to back in chairs, that’s just a much more formal way of sitting. We mostly sit diagonally, or even left to right. Women particularly sit diagonally. The archetypal alpha-male man spread is also largely a thing of the past. We are all more relaxed and less assertive in the way we sit, but furniture hasn’t necessarily changed to accommodate our new way of sitting.”
"Nobody sits the way they are supposed to, everybody sits in a different way. I think culturally we sit in a more relaxed way now."
That is where Bruno comes in. Not only does it allow the sitter to move around at will, it also acknowledges the changes in how people are sitting in public spaces. “The other thing that happens in public space that I think is really interesting, is that we no longer share sofas. That was true nearly four years ago, now we really don’t share sofas. So, essentially this is a sofa for one. It is a reality that people want to be relaxed in public spaces and this is a response to that.”
Bruno also takes into account the fact that people now often sit accompanied by a digital object. Oscar explains: “Another thing in the digital world of today when we have tablets and smartphones is that people want to sit in a different way. For privacy.”
"Essentially this is a sofa for one. It is a reality that people want to be relaxed in public spaces and this is a response to that."
Bruno armchair by Ilse Crawford & Oscar Peña
As this is their first design for SCP, we were intrigued to find out what the process of working with the upholstery factory in Norfolk was like for them.
“Tim (Cox – who runs SCP’s factory) was very hands on. Looking at things, cutting and chopping, trying different things. It’s always nice to work that way. With a chair you really need to sit down to see if it is comfortable. Does it hurt? Does it support your back? Can you put your feet up?” Says Oscar. Ilse adds: “Going to the factory, it’s always lovely to work with something in the real world. The intuitive hand and all that. It’s all very well having ideas and drawings, even 3D designs, but with something like this, which is really about how it holds the human body, nothing can replace the physical. It’s another level. It’s so dynamic, it’s lovely. A haptic reality.”
"The factory was very hands on. Looking at things, cutting and chopping, trying different things. It's always nice to work that way."
"Although it is a simple chair, it's not trying to be clever in its form I would say, it is responsive. It changes the perspective."
The result of this intuitive process is a design that is very human, with something very connected in both how it was conceived and how it is made. Bruno takes heed of both new human gestures and an evolving language of sitting. We will leave the final words to Ilse:
“Although it is a simple chair, it’s not trying to be clever in its form I would say, it is responsive. It changes the perspective.”
A big thank you to Ilse and Oscar for their time, inquisitiveness and positivity.