Thanks to National Geographic. Tokujin Yoshioka: Pane Chair

Bread is a foam, meringues and cappuccinos are also made from foam and seawater produces it continually; so foam is sea sponge and even cork. Sooner or later someone will obviously try and produce foam chairs, leavened like bread and modelled to one’s liking. Why doesn’t Tokujin Yoshioka explain how it’s done?

The Pane chair is made of a translucent spongy material called polyester elastomer. A half cylindrical part is covered with a sheet and baked in an oven to fix its shape, with the ends of the arms remaining exactly like two pieces of twisted textile. But why “pane”? In Italian, “pane” means bread and Tokujin Yoshioka explains that the project’s development closely resembled cookery: he had to try different ingredients and do a lot of oven baking before he got the appropriate recipe. What’s more, the Italian word “pane” sounds good. It reminds us of fine-smelling and inviting panetone or muffins prepared in their paper tubes. About three years ago, Tokujin was reading National Geographic and came across the wonder of fibres and textiles. He was particularly enthused by fibrous structures that, despite their softness, demonstrate great strength in their capacity to absorb forces. They are heavy but not solid, airy but not hard. Numerous free cells like soap bubbles come together to form an intense group. To him, this is how strength should be in the future. He started to study the material and experiment by himself. Why alone and not with a manufacturer? Because even when he is convinced by an initial idea, he doesn’t necessarily know where it will lead him. He therefore wants as much freedom as possible in the development stage. Tokujin says his works are almost always complete before he decides the design form. He likes autonomous and accidental forms where the beauty lies in going beyond consciousness. In order to scrape or carve the air into something totally new that overcomes personal likings or thinking, he challenges us to shake up the habits of our various senses. He provides devices that influence our definition of existence and non-existence, blurring our perception of the boundary between them. Besides the pane chairs, for Milan’s 2006 Furniture Fair he plans to create fibrous spaces that give the impression of a synthetic liquid where you could breathe. He wants you to feel like touching particles of oxygen, seeing the flow of bodily movements and sensing the weight of the air. This cyber fibre space works as a light-refracting lens. So is what you see still what you believe it to be? With the new relations to the world that he develops for the human senses, there is no longer a body/mind dichotomy. More than an intention to create amazing surprises, Tokujin eagerly wants to realise forms that are essentially new and valuable to the human race and can be shared and felt universally. At first sight it might seem foreign, but it will probably be “normal” in the future. His continuing expedition among the five senses appears to have added a sixth. So why chairs? Tokujin mumbles, “I know we already have millions of chairs and hundreds of good ones. But maybe I do it because it’s difficult.” To him the chair is a perfect illustration of the necessity of design: a small but fundamental (perhaps radical) contribution to humanity. His chairs, including “Honey-Pop”, somehow stimulate and awaken the dormant infancy within us. “My success criteria is if children understand it or not,” Tokujin finally smiles bashfully but proudly.

Fumiko Ito studied sociology in Tokyo and trained as a goldsmith in Florence. She has worked with various publishers, Shiro Kuramata, Sottsass Associates and others. She currently focuses on design research and making jewellery.
Tokujin Yoshioka was born in 1967. He studied design with Shiro Kuramata and Issey Miyake. In 2000 he established his own design studio, where, alongside his professional activity, he dedicates much space to experimentation. He presented his first two chairs, Honey-Pop and Tokyo-Pop, at the 2002 Milan Furniture Fair .
The polyester fibres that are processed to become the chair’s material and structure
The polyester fibres that are processed to become the chair’s material and structure
Stages in preparing the material for oven baking, which will give the chair its final shape
Stages in preparing the material for oven baking, which will give the chair its final shape

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