Eero Aarnio: From Ball to Bubble

A permanent fixture in libraries and a feature on the cover of Playboy: Eero Aarnio’s Bubble Chair is both an acoustically sheltered space for studying and the stage for Carmen Electra’s Playboy photo shoot.  Few pieces can serve such dual functions. Eero Aarnio’s Bubble chair is based on his earlier Ball Chair, described as a “room within a room,” a private space for relaxation or phone calls: cozy, calm and protected from external noise.

Bubble Chair. Designed by Eero Aarnio.

“Turning around its own axis on the base the view to the outer space is variable for the user and thus he is not completely excluded from world outside.”  In 1966, the Ball Chair was presented at the International Furniture Fair in Cologne and has since been described by the Vitra Museum as “something between a piece of furniture and a piece of architecture … embod(ying) both the mobile and the established, the fixed.” “After I had made the Ball Chair I wanted to have the light inside it,” explains the designer, “and so I had the idea of a transparent ball where light comes from all directions.”  The only suitable material was acrylic, “heated and blown into shape like a soap bubble.”  Aarnio contacted the manufacturer of dome-shaped skylights to inquire about blowing a bubble bigger than a hemisphere.  Determining that this was possible, he had a steel ring made and the bubble blown.  Decisions regarding the chair were dictated by its materiality.  ‘There is no nice way to make a clear pedestal’ Eero Aarnio notes, thus the Bubble Chair hangs from the ceiling rather than sitting on a base. Cushions were added and the prototype was made.  The name was obvious and Bubble Chair was unveiled in 1968. 



The Bubble Chair features the same special acoustics as the Ball Chair, providing a feeling of comfortable isolation.  Telenor, a Norwegian phone company, installed Bubble Chairs in the entry hall of their building in Oslo to offer calm “rooms for mobile phoning.  At the EXPO 2000 in Hanover eleven Bubble Chairs were installed in the Cycle Bowl “Blue Box” of the Grüne Punkt Deutschland Pavillion, operating as small, private spaces within the library.  Donnatella Versace posed naked within the Bubble in 1998 for a photo shoot followed by Carmen Electra for the cover of Playboy in December 2000.  The transparent chair has been used in music videos, advertising and fashion magazines. Although seemingly contradictory, the chair has been responsible for the promotion of both studying and sex.

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