Title: Ideas in foam
Author: David Rowlands
Text: Ideas in foam
Winners of the 1972 Dunlopillo Design Award are Charles and Jane Dillon. David Rowlands describes their wall hanging chair and the runners up in the competition
Award winning wall hanging chair, below, right and below right, by Charles and Jane Dillon. Constructed in soft polyester foam pulled into shape by beech slats supported on two strong rubber cords. With cords retracted the chair, perhaps finished in an eye-catching print, is an intriguing decoration
Foam bath, above centre, prototype prize entry by Dinah Casson, is a flexible arrangement of contoured foam slabs with entry step and integral seat. Finnish designer Timo Saarnio won his prototype prize with fully adjustable chair, above
Roy Fischer's play house, above top, proved heavier in prototype than his design had suggested but provides a good deal of flexible fun. Comfortable car servicing is the aim of Martin Hazell with his cushioned mechanics trolley, above, which packs up for easy carrying, left
Husband and wife Charles and Jane Dillon have won the major prize of £1000 in this year's Dunlopillo Design Award competition with an ingenious wall-hanging chair using floor and wall as the structural part of the seat.
When it is out of use and retracted against the wall by strong integral rubber springs, the chair, which can be finished in colourful prints or weaves, becomes an unusual tapestry. Two designers share the student prize- Martin Hazell (Central School) for his grp and polyurethane vehicle servicing trolley, a cushion on wheels for car mechanics, and Geoffrey Hollington (RCA) with a dining chair made from corrugated grp shells upholstered with sausages of foam.
The Dunlopillo Design Awards - a 12-year-old scheme started by Aeroprene before Dunlop took over in 1967 - are awarded in an open project for a design incorporating the company's latex or polyurethane foams. This year 106 designs were submitted; 64 by professional designers and the rest by students. The overwhelming majority of the designs were for furnishing applications although Martin Hazell and runners-up Dinah Casson (a polyurethane foam bath) and Roy Fischer (a pyramid shaped playhouse), demonstrated the materials' suitability for more original uses. The competition also has a large foreign entry. Finnish designer Timo Saarnio's adjustable chair is the third runner-up.
The Dillons' seat is constructed from soft polyurethane foam firmed up in the lumbar region by a harder grade of foam and in the seat by a polystyrene underblock. The foam is pulled into shape by internal beech slats supported by two hefty rubber cords with looped ends. The loops at the top attach the chair to ceiling hooks and the bottom loops hold the chair in its down position by means of two wall hooks. Unhook the bottom loops and the tension in the rubber cord gathers up the foam and pulls the seat up the wall. "We started with the idea of those old intimate chairs with very high backs," says Charles Dillon, "but the idea grew until we imagined a whole room of wall-hung seats that people could pull down to whatever position they wished. As a wall-decoration, designed perhaps to contrast its up and down positions, it leaves space for other activities.'' Disappointingly, the prototype is only in black.
Both designers have recently worked in the Milan studios of Ettore Sottsass - Charles on a New York showroom for Olivetti Underwood and Jane on System 45 office furniture. They now work in a converted church shared with OK Textiles, Jane on an executive range of office furniture and Charles on lighting and light sculptures.
Martin Hazell's is a lovely idea - a foam filled grp trolley on castors to enable mechanics to work comfortably while lying under a vehicle. Finished in an oil-resistant, cleanable pvc coating, the trolley has tool drawers to keep spanners close at hand and folds up for easy carriage and storage. Despite the ingenuity it is difficult to see the garage trade liking the trolley since mechanics work mainly under ramps and pits and one suspects it would be too pricy for the diy motorist.
Four components make up Geoffrey Hollington's dining chair. Strength is provided by corrugating the grp back and seat shells which bolt together. The chair is upholstered by filling the concave inner surface of the corrugations with stitched cushions of polyurethane foam fastened in with Velcro patches. One cushion covers the back rest and another, with its outer edges extended to fill the chair legs, covers the seat.
Another good idea, Dinah Casson's bath, falls down because she has confined herself to a traditional form. Very careful control of the grades of foam used is needed to provide adequate rigidity and with the particular colour chosen cleaning would be a problem. The Dunlop judges found Ronald Fischer's playhouse design had lost a lot of its flexibility and lightness during the transition between drawings and prototype; due they thought to over development by the designer (apparent to some extent in all the prototypes constructed). Future judging panels will indicate the designs' best features so they can be retained in the final model. A fully adjustable chair is an exciting goal to aim for but if it is mechanically complicated like Timo Saarnio's design the object of the exercise is defeated. The chunky cushions pivoted in chromed tubular frames cannot be adjusted while seated.