out and about :: ron arad restless

Katie | April 18, 2010

Saw this exhibition at the Barbican today – really good. I’d only recently realised that both the Rover Chair…     

Ron Arad Rover Chair


…and the Well Tempered Chair…     

Ron Arad Well Tempered Chair


…were by Ron Arad and had struggled to see a connection between the two, but this exhibition really helped to show the development of his work, so you could see the link between pieces as different as these two. It starts upstairs and is divided into eight types of production / phases of his output.     


1. Scavenging: Here we learnt about Arad’s studio ‘One Off’, which he set up in Covent Garden in 1981, and from which he started producing furniture, largely made from ‘found items’ such as The Rover Chair, a red leather car seat salvaged from a car yard, mounted on to steel frames with scaffolding joints. (Pictured above.)     

2. Tinkering: Arad then started to experiment with welded steel, beating and hammering it until it resembled and functioned as a chair.     

Ron Arad's Tinker Chairs, 1988


3. Rolling: This section focused on Arad’s rocking chairs, many of which use sand as a counter balance to the body’s weight, and so play with the traditional resting position of a rocking chair.     

Ron Arad Rocking Chair


You also start to see his developing interest in surface finishes in this chair and even more so in the next one, which was one of my favourites…     

Ron Arad's Thumbprint 2007


Ron Arad's Thumbprint close-up


4. Profiling: This area looked at designs that started with lines, with their profiles. One of the things I enjoyed about this exhibition was the fact it let you have a glimpse of the design process. I like the fact that Arad’s work seems to be quite conceptual – he seems to allows himself to play with ideas that might not necessarily translate into products, and yet he has designed some of the most successful mass-produced chairs on the market.     

Ron Arad's London Papardelle, 1997


5. Superforming: Having had a glimpse into the design process, this section let you see a little of the manufacturing process, and how that can go back and affect the design process. The manufacturing process of one of Arad’s most famous designs; the Tom Vac (originally designed as part of a 100 chair stack for the 1997 Milan Furniture Fair, each chair being vacuum formed in 20 minutes), led to the design of Uncut, 1997, and Thick Vac, 2006.     

Ron Arad's Tom Vac, 1997


Ron Arad's Uncut, 1997


Ron Arad's Thick Vac, 2007


6. Gomling: Arad created ‘Gomli’ as a proxy for the user in the design process; a ‘sitter’ that Arad can use to make sure each piece will be comfortable for every person that sits in it. The name is a reference to his friend Antony Gormley, who uses his own body as the reference for his art. It was great to see this level of attention to ergonomics, in these days of ‘design art’.     

Ron Arad's Gomli, 2009


7. Voiding: Reflective of Ron Arad’s continual interest in new materials, these ‘rocking chaise longues,’ were produced in 2003 and were the forerunners of the Voido rocking chair I saw in SCP East last week. Following the Voids’ experimentation in a wide variety of materials, the Voido chair is industrially produced from Polyethylene, put into a mould, heated and rotated so that it sticks to the inside of the mould, creating a hollow, lightweight piece that can be produced at a much lower cost, at volume. But the colours in this one are incredible…     

One of Ron Arad's Voids


8. Tipping: Playing with the risk and instability inherent in rocking chairs, and taking this to the nth degree to create a chair that is almost a sculpture… (note the now very ‘finished’ surface as contrasted with his earlier hammered and bashed metalwork).     

Ron Arad's Bodyguard, 2008


Finally a sneak preview to an unfinished Thumbprint…     

Thumbprint (unfinished), 2007, viewed through a peephole!


Then there was more downstairs, but the best bit was we got to sit in some of his chairs (so exciting!)…     

Design geek in Ron Arad designed chair!


Fab exhibition – go and check it out! It finishes on 16th May.     

Links / Info:     


Tickets: £6 – £10  

Opening hours: Open daily Mon / Fri / Sat / Sun: 11am-8pm Tue / Wed 11am – 6pm Thu 11am – 10pm  

Nearest tube: Barbican

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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