A Backup Plan

When his study of leading task chairs revealed that most of them force the sitter into unhealthy postures, industrial designer Jeff Jenkins decided to start with healthy postures and work backward. “If you look at the commentators on CNN, they’re all perched forward,” he says. “If you’re intensely working on the computer or in a conversation with someone, you’re not really using the upper back of the chair.”

This gave Jenkins, who was designing a chair for his master’s thesis at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, an idea: separate the lumbar support from the rest of the chair back. “I carved up the back and allowed the lumbar to follow you in forward tilt,” he explains. “Then as you recline, the lumbar falls through what I call the ‘auxiliary back.’” The separation of the chair’s lumbar section was made possible by a lowered pivot point and a set of rollers under the seat, which increases forward tilt to encourage the spine’s natural curve.

Eight years later the resulting design—the Meta Chair—has continued to evolve as Jenkins has moved into professional practice. He has developed sustainable upholstery for the chair that’s a composite of wool, latex, and cork, and he recently completed a working prototype that he is shopping around to manufacturers. “I look at the Meta Chair as an antidote to the negative consequences of technology on the human condition,” Jenkins says. “Not that I’m against technology, but let’s face it: the human body was not designed to sit in a chair and operate a computer all day.”

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