R18 Ultra Chair, by Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram for Audi
This chair was designed to establish a new standard in furniture design in terms of the use of cutting-edge technology. That’s part of an interesting approach that some car makers have pursued in order to extend their knowledge to other areas. The downsizing strategy is the same car industry borrows from aeronautical industry. In short, design processes and standards from the aeronautical industry are tested on a larger scale in the car industry and then start to come to a broader consumer realm embodied in furniture, bicycles, wrist watches and so on. It’s different of designing car accessories because it’s part of a powerful branding strategy: it engages with potential consumers and establishes itself as company statement being perceived as leader in a certain area of expertise.
The R18 Ultra Chair was designed in collaboration with Audi ultra, the department focused on lightweight construction. The seat shell is made from carbon composites with micro sandwich and carbon rubber sections weighing 1.354 kg. Folded aluminum sheet was used to chair legs and connectors. Fasteners are made from titanium. The result is a 2.2 kg chair.
This feature can be fantastic when compared with a polypropylene injected Panton chair that weights (5.5 kg), but not so great when compared with Gio Ponti’s Superleggera chair made in 1957, that weights only 1.7 kg.
Comparisons aside R18 Ultra chair stands for its own as a good interpretation of car industry techniques for the furniture industry. The testing sessions held in Milan during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in April 2012 constituted a step further from just technology transfer: by analyzing 1500 different people they had collected real data to refine the design. That’s a scientific milestone for the modernists although it remains a standard chair. For customization sake though, it shows that it is possible to achieve a step closer to personalization, by using those sensors in a standard version and then encode its data to refine the design into a personalized version.
The presentation of the project stands coherent with the overall high tech language used and common in Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram’s works.