Using Modern Materials to Build Iconic Design Furniture


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The Eames fiberglass shell chair has been made in the same way for almost 60 years. A mold covered in glue is dipped into a machine, which constantly spins around, resulting in a skeleton of a million fiberglass threads. This skeleton is then coated in paint, and pressed between two 30,000-pound presses until it has a glossy, almost candy-like shell.

It’s a beautiful manufacturing process to watch, but because of the way the Eames Molded Shell Chair is finished, you never actually see the design of the skeleton underneath. The Carbon Fiber Eames Sofa, from architect and designer Matthew Strong, is an attempt to reveal that gorgeous inner structure. Woven together with threads of threads of ultra-strong, reinforced polymer, the Sofa shows off the Eames skeleton by stripping away the skin.

Although the Eameses never designed a sofa in the style of their fiberglass shell armchairs, they did design prototypes sometime in the 1950s, which are still on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Because of the amount of fiberglass needed to make the Eames Sofa sturdy enough to hold multiple sitters, Herman Miller ultimately decided not to manufacture the product. The finished sofa was just too heavy.

But if the Eames had access to modern materials, such as carbon fiber, the Eames Sofa may well have become a reality. Which is what makes Matthew Strong’s sculptural carbon fiber skeleton of the Eames Sofa such a fascinating project in its own right: looking at it is like peering into an alternate timeline of Eames-era design.

You can see more of Matthew Strong’s work here.


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