The EVO-C began with a question from one of Vitra’s product developing engineers: could we achieve a one-piece moulded cantilever chair with two front legs, in other words could we go a step further than the Panton chair and design a two-legged version as a single plastic moulding? Rolf Fehlbaum, who as a youthful Vitra employee was instrumental in persuading his father to take up the challenge of producing the Panton Chair more than 50 years ago, was immediately behind the idea of Vitra taking the next step with newly available technologies and materials.
I did a sketch in response to the engineer’s question. This shows the power of dialogue more than anything, as I would never have made the sketch without the question. That was in 2015 I think. Over the next five years we made several hundred iterations of a 3d computer drawing. The changes were partly aesthetic but mostly they were down to adjusting the sections and material thicknesses to have the right combination of strength and flexibility.
There were many complexities. The main struggles were the thickness of the legs, the length of the foot (to avoid tipping) and the detailing of how and where to end the gas-moulded tubular parts. There were many more struggles on the engineering side, and stress simulations which had the computers running for weeks to estimate whether the design was strong enough and if not then where it needed strengthening. Then there were test moulds of the legs to check them in reality, with snaking lengths of tube to simulate the flow of the gas through a certain length without building an expensive larger mould. Eventually when everything seemed to be working well enough they started cutting the mould which is a monster of moving parts and channels for the gas to get in. The achievement is nine parts engineering to one part Design. I think the final result has a Zelig-like ability to fit in to different kinds of spaces.
See Jasper’s conversation with Max Fraser for more about EVO-C.