Don’t Hide From Aodh O’Donnell’s Armadillo Chair

Aodh O’Donnell‘s sublime Armadillo Chair reminds me of Ryan Dart’s Quarry table—from an aesthetic as well as conceptual perspective. Both Dart and O’Donnell have structured their unique pieces around a look created by the timeless process of evolution: in the case of Quarry, the epochal play of water and wind on rock; and in the case of Armadillo, the millions of years of mutation and selection that manifests today in the digging, burrowing, and curiously armor-plated little creatures called armadillos.

Armadillo Chair. Designed by Aodh O’Donnell for 2009 Wilsonart Challenge.

O’Donnell’s chair doesn’t so much resemble an armadillo as mimic its defense strategy. The animals’ hide—covered with dozens of small, overlapping scales made of dermal bone—helps protect it from predators. One might say the same about the Armadillo chair, though the predators in the case of the latter are of a more benign variety (the big-buckled belts of design-savvy hipsters presenting the most persistent danger, perhaps). Armadillo mounts a formidable defense: designed as part of the 2009 Wilsonart Challenge, the piece is comprised of hundreds of laminate squares riveted onto a curvilinear foam core set atop stainless steel legs.



Beyond the piece’s namesake, the look of the chair also reminds me of cedar-shingled roofs. In fact, that’s how O’Donnell characterizes the production process of a piece whose objective is to “explore the possibilities of creating a new experience in the interaction between people and laminate.” Armadillo achieves that and more. And it’s no static set-piece either. Observing Armadillo from different heights and angles reveals an enlightening array of experiential perception, the miniature laminates interacting to create a fascinating textural interplay that evokes movement and flow.

Some in the blogosphere—though much enamored of the aesthetic—persist in questioning the functionality of Armadillo, questioning everything from its dubious ergonomics to the peril it poses to ladies’ accessories (careful not to snag your nylons!). But O’Donnell, for one, seems downright comfy in it. Anyway, even if one need don a protective armor of his/her own before use (I think jeans would do nicely)—O’Donnell’s artsy and daring Armadillo Chair deserves attention indeed.

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