The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design

Overview

"Engaged in fascinating and useful multidisciplinary research, Cranz is an avatar for body-friendly design. . . . Read [The Chair] and cheer."—Elizabeth Zimmer, Village Voice
Perhaps no other object of our daily environment has had the enduring cultural significance of the ever-present chair, unconsciously yet forcefully shaping the physical and social dimensions of our lives. With over ninety illustrations, this book traces the history of the chair as we know it from its crudest beginnings up through the modern ...

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Overview

"Engaged in fascinating and useful multidisciplinary research, Cranz is an avatar for body-friendly design. . . . Read [The Chair] and cheer."—Elizabeth Zimmer, Village Voice
Perhaps no other object of our daily environment has had the enduring cultural significance of the ever-present chair, unconsciously yet forcefully shaping the physical and social dimensions of our lives. With over ninety illustrations, this book traces the history of the chair as we know it from its crudest beginnings up through the modern office variety. Drawing on anecdotes, literary references, and famous designs, Galen Cranz documents our ongoing love affair with the chair and how its evolution has been governed not by a quest for comfort or practicality, but by the designation of status.Relating much of the modern era's rampant back pain to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle spent in traditional seating, Cranz goes beyond traditional ergonomic theory to formulate new design principles that challenge the way we think and live. A farsighted and innovative approach to our most intimate habitat, this book offers guidelines that will assist readers in choosing a chair-and designing a lifestyle-that truly suits our bodies. Praise for The Chair: "[A] concise, multidisciplinary gem."—Publishers Weekly "Cranz is no sedentary historian. The Chair is a call to action."—Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times "Galen Cranz has written a provocative book. Pull up a comfortable chair-if you can find one-and read it."—Witold Rybczynski

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: 9780393319552
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 817,486
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (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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