The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design

Overview

A provocative look at one of our most common cultural artifacts, this book reveals the history, physiology, and politics of how and why we sit the way we do - and others don't. Perhaps no other object of our daily environment has had the enduring cultural significance of the ever-present chair, unconsciously yet forcefully shaping the social and physical dimensions of our lives. With over ninety illustrations, Galen Cranz's The Chair traces the varied history of the chair as we know it from its crudest beginnings...
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Overview

A provocative look at one of our most common cultural artifacts, this book reveals the history, physiology, and politics of how and why we sit the way we do - and others don't. Perhaps no other object of our daily environment has had the enduring cultural significance of the ever-present chair, unconsciously yet forcefully shaping the social and physical dimensions of our lives. With over ninety illustrations, Galen Cranz's The Chair traces the varied history of the chair as we know it from its crudest beginnings in the Neolithic Age up through the modern ergonomic office. Drawing on anecdotes, literary references, and famous designs, she documents our ongoing love affair with the chair - despite its potentially harmful effects on our bodies. Part social commentary, part design history, and part manifesto for a new way of living, this book brings a critical and delightfully astute eye to the place where we spend most of our waking lives.

Considers the history, physiology and politics of sitting.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The oldest surviving chair comes from the tomb of King Tut. "Roman chairs were rare, decorative items of luxury." Chairs themselves represent the West--or the "barbarians"--to cultures that have done without them. Office seating uses shape, fabric and size to make clear which chair belongs to the boss. And current home seating--even the "male" La-Z-Boy--increasingly tries to accommodate women's bodies and tastes. So reports Cranz The Politics of Park Design, a professor of architecture at the U.C.-Berkeley, in this concise, multidisciplinary gem. Cranz begins by surveying the chair's historical kinds, styles and meanings; then addresses issues of back support, body shape and ergonomics; and ends up in a vigorous, detailed argument against the standard right-angled chair and "chair-desk complex," in favor of "body-conscious design" in an attractively described Ideal Workplace. "Sitting is hard work," Cranz's research reveals; seatmakers should, she says, abandon the common principle of lower-back support; the Alexander Technique of somatic therapy holds lessons for furniture designers; "human beings are not designed to hold any single posture for long periods"; garden-variety office furniture is bad for you; and the famous chairs of Modernism are, in general, even worse. Cranz's clear book--half survey, half polemic--may successively delight, instruct and alarm professors in their endowed chairs, designers at their slanted tables, drivers in drivers' seats, parents with carseats and, of course, the armchair intellectual. 85 photographs and illustrations. Sept.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393046557
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Galen Cranz is professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 9
Acknowledgments 13
Introduction 15
Pt. I Why Do We Use Chairs? 21
Ch. 1 How Chairs Evolved 25
Ch. 2 The Elements of Style 65
Pt. II What's Wrong with the Chair? 91
Ch. 3 An Ergonomic Perspective 94
Ch. 4 A Body-Mind Perspective 119
Pt. III Toward Body-Conscious Design 149
Ch. 5 The Chair Reformed 153
Ch. 6 Beyond Interior Design 185
Notes 223
Bibliography 253
General 253
Specialized Works on Ergonomics 266
Index 277
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