Mark I Sound Chair designed by Grant and Mary Featherston

Made by Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1966.

Australian furniture designers Grant and Mary Featherston developed the ‘Mark I Sound Chair’ for the Australian Pavilion at the Montreal Expo of 1967. Moulded from a single piece of rigid expanded polystyrene that is covered in polyurethane foam, it demonstrates the 1960s fascination for plastic, which provided new and limitless opportunities for furniture design.

The Montreal Universal and International Exposition (Expo 67) was one in a series of spectacular world’s fairs. The official title ...

Summary

Object No.

2008/144/1

Physical Description

Chair, 'Mark I Sound Chair', polystyrene foam / polyurethane foam / Dunlopillo foam rubber / Pirelli webbing / fibreglass / hardwood / wool / velcro / sound equipment, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1966, made by Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1966, used at the Australian Pavilion, Montreal Expo, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1967

A chair in moulded plastic and fibreglass upholstered in dark green woollen fabric, with a seat cushion and head rest in the same dark green woollen fabric. The cushion and head rest are attached with velcro strips. The chair rises from a round base into a high, semi-circular back rest. Concealed in the corners of the back rest is a sound system with headphones. The switch for the sound system is under the seat.

Marks

No marks

Dimensions

Height

1135 mm

Width

720 mm

Depth

800 mm

Production

Notes

Australian furniture designers Grant and Mary Featherston developed the 'Mark I Sound Chair' for the Australian Pavilion at the Montreal Expo of 1967. Mary Featherston described the design and production process in an interview in 2007:

'The 'Expo chair' could not be made using conventional materials and production methods. Both its form and function were the result of extensive research involving experimentation and testing. Working in this manner was formative for me, and it set the pattern for the way we would work in partnership. It involved a process of throwing the net very wide, teasing out all the potentials and constraints, and then interpreting and refining. In this instance, we were investigating the visitor experience, the exhibition context, new materials and production techniques, all to a very tight deadline. While the Montreal Expo didn't open until April 1967, the chairs had to be ready for shipping in late August 1966 before the Canadian winter set in.

'We worked at an intense pace, producing the first prototype within four weeks. The process began with Grant's practice of trialling shapes by bending and slitting paper. Gradually a very simple horn-shaped form evolved which grew out of the floor and wrapped the visitor in an intimate sound shell. It was a form that closely expressed its function. We then made a full-size model in corrugated cardboard, into which we built up fine strips of polystyrene to exactly mimic the final shell. Two partial shells were made to be sent off for acoustical testing. We then continued to test and refine this model, and added a tubular ring to hold elastic webbing for seat suspension. Once we had upholstered and covered the full shell with the dark green wool selected by Robin, we were able to draw up the specifications for the government tender. The cushions, which were loose, were to be colour-coded green for English and orange for French.

'At the same time we were seeking the most appropriate technique to produce the chair. It needed to be robust to withstand a predicted 20,000 users per chair, and lightweight for freight to the other side of the world. It also needed to be suitable for batch production and to seamlessly incorporate the sound system. Plastic furniture was part of the 'shock of the new' in the sixties, and many furniture designers exploited the ability to create startlingly new furniture, from funky pneumatic forms to elegant 'one-shot' moulded shapes.

'For Grant, the advent of plastics in furniture was especially liberating. The curved shells of his Contour Chairs were laboriously created by bending sheet ply, but now he could create complex organic shapes and even vary the thickness of the shell for efficient use of material. With plastic technology the chair could be produced in one piece, straight out of the mould.' (Denise Whitehouse, 'Speaking for Australia: The talking Chair' in 'Modern Times: The untold story of modernism in Australia', Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2008)

Made

Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd 1966

History

Notes

This is one of 250 'Mark I Sound Chairs' that featured in the Australian Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967. The chairs remained in Canada after the event.

Australian collector, Geoff Isaac, purchased this and another 'Mark I Sound Chair' at a Phillip's auction in New York in late 2007.

Used

1967

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 2008

Acquisition Date

16 July 2008

Cite this Object

Harvard

Mark I Sound Chair designed by Grant and Mary Featherston 2014, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 June 2018, <https://ma.as/379571>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/379571 |title=Mark I Sound Chair designed by Grant and Mary Featherston |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 June 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Know more about this object?

TELL US

Have a question about this object?

ASK US