Hella Jongerius The Worker Armchairfor Vitra "Form follows feeling" - with this personally revised version of the modernist credo "form follows function", Hella Jongerius describes a fundamental principle of her design philosophy.
One of the central aims of her work is to breach the strict boundaries between mass-produced industrial products and unique handcrafted objects. The synthesis of these seemingly contradictory approaches to design has resulted in novel products with a strongly individual character.
The Worker armchair, Jongerius' newest design for the Vitra Home Collection, derives its unusual appeal from the intriguing combination of obviously handcrafted elements and technologically sophisticated features.
The impression of handmade, down-to-earth solidity stems from the stocky compactness of the seat cushion as well as the visible base, whose square section oak frame recalls half-timbered construction. Modernity and new technologies, on the other hand, are evident in the complex shapes of the CNC-lathed wooden armrests and the polished aluminium connectors that join them to the wooden backrest.
The striking character of The Worker relies to a large degree on the selection of upholstery materials. The voluminous seat and loose two-layer back cushions are covered with different kinds of materials, both fabric and leather. In this way, Jongerius has developed a composition of varying textures and carefully co-ordinated colours.
The high back cushion is enhanced by leather edge panels with a practical, integrated handle strap on the top. The small front cushion is accented with two decorative buttons. Like the buttons on the Polder Sofa, they are made out of exotic natural materials and attached with high-tech parachute thread.
Commenting on her inspiration for this armchair, whose unusual distinctiveness is complemented by its friendly, congenial nature, Jongerius says:
“I am highly interested in furniture made from solid wood, in craftsmanship done by carpenters. It holds the collective memory of people; wood gives us trust, honesty, slow life, a feeling of being at home. Working with this material was out of the picture for a long time because it is not sexy and contemporary. But why is innovation always connected with high-tech and plastics?
I tried to work like a contemporary carpenter. The search was for a small fauteuil which gives comfort, a size that embraces the body and fits in smaller places. To celebrate the wood, a part of the construction on the back is visible. The front part is comfortable upholstery, it slides into the wood. Some of the fabrics look like a worker’s clothes, but there is a brightly coloured, comfortable pillow which gives support in the lower back. The armrest shows the soft face of wood, as if it was rolling in a river for years. And by its production method it is a high-tech object.“