NotesAustralian 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)
MadeAristoc Industries Pty Ltd 1966