Ergonomics, the history of chairs

Mar 19, 2021 | Xinli Shao

Ergonomics, the history of chairs

Modern interior designers have done their part to disseminate the idea of chairs as a fashionable and also sensible norm, using various designs to continually reinvent the aesthetic features of the chair, with little thought to the ergonomics. We think of chairs as the four-legged creatures , avoided by carnivores, with structural backs and bottoms, familiar to animals and they adopt a standing posture. Cranz notes that they appeal to humans, and perhaps especially designers, with this blend of the “architectonic and the anthropomorphic”: they are structurally interesting and an echo of the human body itself.

However, whilst chairs may remind us somewhat of the human form, they seldom do much to actually support our bodies. As an example of this, countless designs feature big, soft cushions that seem to indicate comfort, but from an ergonomics perspective, the general consensus contradicts that the padded aesthetic provides any ergonomic benefit. Cranz writes that “an over-padded chair forces the sit bones to rock in the padding rather than make contact with a stable surface, thereby forcing the flesh in the butt and thighs to bear weight”. This is neither useful nor healthy in the long term.

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