Plastic chairs - design and ecology
Addressing sustainability through design is an increasingly urgent problem. My research aims to explore the intersection between plastics, chair design, and environmentally conscious design. Chairs are often characterised as the quintessential design challenge; a successful chair requires both engineering and design skills. While much has been written about plastics and their impact on various aspects of design, there has been little critical design history undertaken on the use of plastics in seating. Likewise, much research has been undertaken on sustainable design and there have been many calls for design-led societal change. Few studies, however, have focused on how such change actually manifests, or identified the areas of research required to do so. In other words, what does it really take to shift design and manufacturing practices, at scale, across complex supply chains?
With reference to historical and contemporary developments, I will examine shifting attitudes to plastics – including bioplastics – as some product designers respond to environmental concerns. This study will critically evaluate interviews with a global selection of contemporary designers, many of whom have access to emerging technologies and the financial resources to develop them.
Through a focus on plastic chairs, this research aims to analyse how designers engage with new plastics technologies. It will identify the systemic obstacles and interdisciplinary tensions associated with the adoption of these emerging plastic technologies.