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Tolima Chair

Among the past century’s innovations and improvements to the technology of the chair, three notables top my list: Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Chair (see also his Artek Lounger), Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Chair, and Walter Papst’s Three-Legged Chair. The first showed us how to bend a single sheet of laminate wood into an elegant and functional curve; the second demonstrated the use of unorthodox (as well as cheap and readily available) materials; and the third showed us how to balance on three legs.

Tolima Chair. Designed by Will Oltman.

Today’s best designers continue to be influenced by these greats; have a look at Four Chairs in One, Spring Chair, and Omega Chair and Desk for some recent examples. And add one more to the list, the Tolima Chair by Will Oltman. The Michigan-based designer is presently finishing up his BFA in Industrial Design, so his inspired Tolima is just a taste of what’s to come.

Named for the Nevado Del Tolima Volcano in the mountains of Columbia, the chair embodies the powerful elegance of a natural phenomenon. The three-legged design (contrary to Papst’s piece, Oltman’s single-leg is oriented to the rear) defies expectations yet achieves a consummate functionality. It also allows for a feature Oltman calls a “shock mount connection”: “A single bolt threaded through a rubber mounting pad ties the rear leg to the bottom of the seat. The simple connection creates structural rigidity as well as allowing the seat to compress for a comfortable and delightful sitting experience.”

The seat back and single leg also establish the curvaceous profile that gives Tolima a distinctive aesthetic. The spidery yet sensuous legs and fan-shaped back provide an extra-terrestrial aspect, aligning it with some other other-worldly pieces we’ve profiled: HGW and the Ondine Bench. But Tolima has organic elements as well. Similar to the mountainous region it’s named for, it meanders and undulates, rises and falls in surprising and eye-catching ways—just like a snaking river or a tumbling expanse of molten lava. And the chair is versatile as well. Formally innovative yet inviting and warm, Tolima seems at home wherever you choose to take it. So whether in office or living room, private patio or street-side café, Tolima lends an exotic functionality to your sitting pleasure.

Posted February 26th, 2009 by Joseph Starr

  • Jacob Slevin

    i’d be a bit afraid to sit in this chair… and potentially fall to the ground. however, it’s remarkably beautiful.

  • Joseph Starr

    Didn’t you notice those protective lips on the side? Or would you be afraid of falling forward?

    But you’re right—the lithe profile does make one wonder how much weight it would support.

  • Rebecca Lewis

    This chair looks like a 3-legged grasshoppper in motion. I agree - I wonder how much weight it would support. The joinery underneath looks like it is pretty sophisticated though.

  • louisa

    oh i love this chair.. adorable

  • Tom R.

    This chair reminds me of a Strider from Half Life 2 or perhaps a long legged guy in a lose fitting suit walking down a busy street with his hands in his pockets, tooth pick in the corner of his mouth and maybe whisting a tune to himself. Either way very hip.

  • Joseph Starr

    Nice. Something from the work of R. Crumb, no doubt.

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