Peter Opsvik is one of the most celebrated designers in Norway, principally known for his various chair designs that encourage movement when sitting. Many of us live fairly sedentary lives, especially those who work in an office all day, but Opsvik believes that just because we sit, it doesn’t mean we need to sit still.
The intention was to use it in open plan offices, with everyone sitting like puppets
Humans Invent spoke with Opsvik to find out how he comes up with these highly ergonomic yet radical looking designs.
We began by asking why he thought it so important to move when sitting: “That’s very simple actually. If you look round at the train station, for example, no one is standing still while they wait fro a train, they are not standing like statues. When they have the opportunity or the possibility to, people choose movement.”
Interestingly, moving a little can be less tiring than remaining completely still. Opsvik says, “If you stretch out your left arm and hold it there and then move the right arm about you will notice you can stand with the arm you move for hours but the arm that is held out is tired after one minute.”
Based on this understanding he’s created numerous chairs that encourage movement, the most playful, and extreme, of which is the Swing which will be exhibited at the 100% Norway festival in London this September. This chair literally is a swing that can hang from the ceiling or in a pyramid-shaped frame that Opsvik designed ten years ago. The rather radical idea was to use these in office settings but certain practicalities have held it back and Opsvik is looking to improve upon the design to make it workable.
He says, “The intention was to use it in open plan offices, with everyone sitting like puppets, suspended from the ceiling but it was a little bit too strange. One problem was that you can’t move into the table or desk so you would need to have small desks with wheels. It was an experiment and it’s not in production anymore but we are working on the concept. I think the concept is good.”
It was an experiment but I think the concept is good.
Opsvik is also responsible for developing a modern type of kneeling chair called the Balans along with Hans Christian Mengshoel, Odvin Rykken and Svein Gusrud. Opsvik’s highly ergonomic Variable Balans from 1979, which spreads out the pressure of sitting to reduce lower back strain, has become a fairly commonplace sight in people’s studies.
All of his chair designs are borne out of observing how we use our bodies. Opsvik says, “I’m always observing how we behave. You see, when people test a chair they want to buy they sit down and lean on the back rest but the next time you are in a café or a restaurant look around you, you will see that maybe under 10% use the back rest. Most are leaning forward to the table or desk, therefore this forward leaning needs testing as well as the leaning backwards.”
His 1983 chair design, Pendulum, not too dissimilar to a rocking chair, accommodates both the desire to lean forward and backwards. On his website Opsvik describes it thus: “The Pendulum concept is an attempt to allow the chair to follow the body’s wishes.” This could be said of all his chair designs in that they all attempt to suit the bodies’ natural disposition.
Though Opsvik has been designing furniture since 1967 it was in 1972 that his reputation began to grow after the release of his adjustable high chair for children called the Tripp Trapp. To this date, he has sold nearly eight million of these chairs.
Opsvik says, “Before the Tripp Trapp chair there were different types of high chairs in different countries for babies but there were no chairs where a two, three or four year old could sit at the table. So my idea was to make a chair that would last for more than two years.”
One of Opsvik’s latest creations is an update of Tripp Trapp called the Nomi. He says, “Nomi is a similar concept to Tripp Trapp but you can easily adjust it without using a key. This makes it easier for restaurants or grandparents to change the chair for different sizes of children. It is also more playful and more open.”
If you want to see Opsvik’s work at 100% Norway, the exhibition is taking place between 19th and 22nd September at the Dray Walk Gallery off Brick Lane.
For more information on 100% Norway click here
Image credits: Peter Opsvik