This project was developed alongside my teaching partner, Joe, as a way to combine our common interests. Before the start of the semester we realized that we both were interested in chairs and especially ones made out of wood. We both had some experience in making things out of wood and decided to look into who was responsible for making such beautiful objects. We chose a chair by Hans Wegner that we liked called "Shell Chair" and set about making a 1/4 scale model in order to study the way that it was made.
We researched the life of Hans Wegner and learned that he had been trained as a cabinet maker and was obsessed with quality. He believed no furniture should have a back or front, but should be beautiful from all sides. He began making furniture in Denmark in the 1950's and was constrained by needing to source inexpensive materials while the country recovered from world war two. While replicating his chair Joe and I unavoidably learned about the life and times of the person who made it.
Because we had enjoyed learning about 1950's Denmark in this way, Joe and I wondered if we could reverse the process. Instead of learning history by replicating an artifact, we thought we would try to teach about history by making an artifact to represent it. We selected an historical event that we cared about and found a chair to draw inspiration from, and then designed a chair to represent that story.
We chose an event in Argentina that we connected with. Every May, the mothers of children who were abducted by the government for political reasons gather to protest and call for justice to those who carried out the abductions. They've been gathering in this way for more than 30 years. The location where they gather and their story inspired us to make a seat.
At left you can see the way that we identified elements from the story to use in our design, as well as the model made in Sketchup. Our final model was very polished, but ultimately nonfunctional, and broke while being used.
Looking back at our process we were able to split the project into two pieces and lead the students through it.
For this project there were 4 deliverables that directly related to skills needed in the final project.
1. 1/4 Scale Model of a significant chair from the 20th century
2. Physics concepts poster
3. Historical Context and Background articles
4. Display shelf and shelf text
Week 1: Sketch a chair, pick a design that you like
Week 2: Partners, 1/4 scale paper model of chair, background articles
Week 3: Concept poster, start 1/4 scale wooden model
Week 4: Build shelf, shelf text, finish 1/4 scale model
Week 5: Print text, finish shelf, polish chair, mount everything