Back To Top

Not an ordinary chair

Along the “design promenade,” the curved, flowing passageway inside the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, visitors pass by stylish, unique chairs. Some take a look, while others hardly notice them and go straight into the exhibition space.

The DDP staff recommends visitors pay attention to the chairs, designed by 112 furniture designers from 30 countries around the world.

“Visitors are not sure whether the chairs are just decor objects or real chairs that they can sit on. The chairs displayed here are (pieces of) furniture whose design concepts and function are extended beyond those of the past. Visitors will get insight into the broader role that furniture can play in our lives,” said Baek Jong-won, CEO of the Seoul Design Foundation, at a press conference on the chair collection last week. 
“Spun Chair” by Thomas Heatherwick. (DDP)
“Spun Chair” by Thomas Heatherwick. (DDP)

The DDP is displaying a total of 1,869 inspiring chairs, which it collected over a year. Some 600 were made by Western designers and the remaining 1,200 were made by Asian designers. They are scattered throughout three major exhibition spaces in the expansive DDP.

The chairs made by Western designers are minimalist and fun, and blend well with the DPP’s futuristic, unique architecture.

“Spun Chair” by London-based designer Thomas Heatherwick adds fun to the conventional furniture item as the chair rocks from side to side or spins around. The spinning top-like chair was made with a rotational molding technique that allows it to rotate 360 degrees.

Most of the chairs created by Western designers are white and made using practical materials such as polyethylene that are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use.

Some all-white plastic sofas and chairs, such as “Plie Sofa and Chair” by Italian designer Roberto Palomba and Ludovica, are made for an outdoor setting, but placed on the design promenade to serve as a rest spot for exhibition goers. The mountain-inspired bench “Bd Love Bench” by British designer Ross Lovegrove accommodates up to 10 people.

The chairs made by Asian designers are notable for their natural materials and the design inspiration they draw from their countries. “Tea Ceremony Chair” by Japanese designer Hiroki Takada resembles the traditional tea whisk used in Japanese tea ceremonies. When a person sits on it, the bamboo sticks that surround the chair create a feeling of comfort and relaxation, like sitting in a bamboo forest.

The capsule-like “Genie Havana Chair” by Filipino designer Tony Gonzales offers comfort and privacy in the public passageway. As it can accommodate up to two people, who must crawl inside, it’s often occupied by lovers in the evening.

“Sometimes they turn the chair to face the wall for privacy,” said Yoon Byung-soo, director of Oriental furniture at the DDP, during a press tour.

Korean designer Kim Jeong-seob used an unprecedented mix of cement and the traditional sanggam technique of inlaying an image, usually used for Goryeo celadon, in creating black-and-white stools. The stool patterns inspired by Korean traditional landscape painting create the right mood for the Kangsong Art Museum exhibition of Korean artifacts and paintings.

By Lee Woo-young  (