Steelwood Chair: Perimeters
The next tool makes a perpendicular fold around the sheet’s perimeter, which allows the hard edges to be folded away from the smooth backrest. Parts of this fold will become armrests. “The heart of this project is the back,” says Eugenio Perazza, Magis CEO. “We use an automated process so there’s no manpower except to turn on the machine. The operator can’t make a mistake; he just pushes ‘go.’” Magis, for its part, couldn’t afford mistakes in making the metal-forming molds, which cost about $450,000.
Surprisingly, the final prototype—which embodied the chair down to every radius—was not metal but plastic. “To make a one-off shape like that out of metal,” says Perazza, “requires a kind of manpower that no longer exists in Italy—–hand-banging shapes out of sheet metal is a disappearing craft. We had a guy who did that but he retired.” Though the Bouroullecs had iterated the chair back in many sturdy forms, the final 1:1 prototypes were made by Magis model makers in plastic, and not for sitting. But they were essential.
“As soon as you get the prototype you discover all kinds of things that you can’t otherwise see,” explains Bouroullec. “The first plastic 1:1 was really good but not subtle enough around some curved details, so we made one more.”