As Director of Studies for the Interior Design BA (Hons) programme at Heriot Watt University in Dubai I was delighted to take part in this fascinating project. The aesthetic for the Heriot-Watt Chair was inspired by the Spirit of the University – pragmatic and forward thinking but based on a rich heritage. The traditional aesthetic of cherry, careful attention to ergonomics and the visual separation structure and decoration in a dynamic form is a visual interpretation of these ideas.
Designing a seat is deceptively ‘small’ project and yet provided a fascinating interface for reflection and engagement on a number of issues which included;
- Materials - cherry, a currently underspecified material seemingly out of fashion, has an inherent beauty, an engaging narrative and the necessary quantitative data underlining its carbon credentials which made it a simple, sustainable material choice.
- Aesthetics - the visual aspect of a chair which initially attracts us, all but disappears when we use it and its qualities appealing to our haptic senses comes to the fore. It transforms from a sculptural to experiential object and what it feels like, its comfort and small details become more critical. Few other objects embody this wide ranging sensory engagement and challenge.
- Representation and reality - as designers we draw our designs (either on cad or hand sketched) but this process doesn’t help us understand how a material will perform – slender sections of timber may seem appealing and look structurally adequate on screen but the dynamic load of the human body quickly finds any weakness.
I embarked on this hoping to make some small insights which I could pass onto my Interior Design students but the process from start to finish has been far more rewarding than I could have anticipated and I intend to run a similar project within the Programme.