Le Monobloc: The People's Chair

Sometimes a piece of furniture becomes so ubiquitous we forget how truly revolutionary it is.  The humble plastic chair’s very banality is a testament to its extreme utility, affordability, and design genius.

The classic definition of a monobloc chair is one that’s injection-moulded from plastic or resin as a single piece, with no seams or other materials introduced.

Since its introduction to the mass market in the 1970’s, variations of this chair have become a global icon of accessibility;  they’re functional, mass-manufactured, light, stable, stackable, weatherproof, and an incredible value--design and function-wise-- for the money.  And they're quite beautiful as well.  If they weren't so common and inexpensive, they could easily be considered a luxury product for their durability and design. 

Photo: Askii

Photo: Askii

In that sense, designing them is no simple feat— a single material must address not just stress points and comfort but also stackability and, of course, visual appeal.  Its origins have been traced back to French engineer Henry Massonnet’s Fauteuil 300, but it was companies like the Allibert and Grosfillex Groups that took the chairs into broad production the 1970s.

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It’s clear why these chairs have been such a viral hit in the consumer and developing-world markets, but domestic commercial-grade and high-design versions are also a welcome solution for hospitality and contract projects where budgets call for high-performance, low-maintenance seating options.  

Design Nerds:  If you want to go down the monobloc rabbit hole (which I highly recommend!)  here are some great links to get you started:

Vitra Design Museum respect.

Bryan Ropar:  Arguably the foremost expert on & collector of vintage injection-moulded plastic chairs.  He’s very open about being on the autism spectrum and plastic-chair obsessed.  A truly fascinating guy with a huge following.

Gimlet Media’s Every Little Thing Podcast: Chair, Misunderstood

(New to podcasts?  Get on it!)

Brian Parks