Herman Miller and Studio 7.5 Present Setu
During the past year alone, the perpetual challenge of creating a superlative task chair spawned three noteworthy contenders: Okamura's Leopard, Knoll's Generation, and Herman Miller's Emobdy. Each admirable achievements in their chosen milieu, these three pieces offer significant headway on the unending quest to create a comfortable work environment. All three are excellent task chairs, to be sure, but none approaches the philosophical and methodological revelation in workplace ergonomics represented by Herman Millers' impressive Setu.
Setu. Designed by Herman Miller and Studio 7.5.
Setu departs from these previous task chairs in several ways, each of which prompts the classic head-smacking gesture that's the universal sign for "we should have thought of that years ago!" It begins with the concept: Herman Miller contracted with Studio 7.5 to forget everything they though they knew about work chairs; the result is a dramatic conceptual shift: "The typical chair design story starts with an idea for a chair which is then shaped into the world around us." Setu reverses the equation: "let the world around us shape the contours and performance." The idea, then, was to create a chair that's eminently adaptable to our protean workspace(s), which, for the millennial workforce, includes airports, cafes, restaurants, hotels-anywhere our wireless technology lets us work. So while the old model of hyper-adjustable chairs might work for a one person-one office situation, the new paradigm calls for a chair that instinctively adapts to individual difference.
Setu has only one adjustable feature-height. The chair is constructed as a single, continuous form that automatically offers the appropriate resistance to a user's weight. The "heart" of the chair is the "kinematic spine"-the pair of curvilinear polypropylene beams with an inner "ribbed" construction (patterned on the shape of a Nautilus shell). This innovative feature allows the continuous construction (as opposed to the separate seat and back of traditional task chairs) that eliminates the need for multiple adjustments. The seating surface-"not a textile, but part of the chair's construction"-provides the contouring function that makes Setu incredibly comfortable.
The very same features facilitate what Stuido 7.5 calls "dematerialization"-the reduction in material use and energy expenditure that has become inherent in good product design. By eliminating the need for "embellishments" or "finishes," Setu reduces several fold the environmental costs of production. This is also evinced in the chair's bottom half: made of an aluminum alloy called "H2," the base needs no coating, finishing, or further refining of any kind-the material emerges fresh from the metallurgists ready for duty.
Studio 7.5 and Herman Miller envision a sort of Utopian future peopled by different incarnations of Setu chairs. The idea is that no matter where you are and under what conditions you're required to work, you'll encounter an ergonomically-propitious set-up. The several extant prototypes propose varying base styles and heights that would render the chair aesthetically appropriate to any number of environments-work, school, hospitality, healthcare, bars, restaurants, cafes...Would that this dream scenario comes to pass: the ergonomic and environmental achievements of Setu just might make it so.