As any industrial designer will attest, drafting an idea is relatively easy. Getting it made is the hard part. Prototypes often languish for years waiting for a manufacturer; and once one is found, it can take equally long to work out the production kinks. Just ask the German designer Stefan Diez, whose Chassis chair, made with space-frame technology commonly used in building car bodies, was unveiled to media swoons back in 2008 but didn’t actually see the light of day until late last year. Although Wilkhahn had committed to financing the project, finding a properly equipped factory willing to fabricate the parts proved a major setback. “If you come as a designer and want to make a chair using this kind of technology, you don’t find an entrance to the club—they have no interest in making chairs,” Diez says.
A company located near Wilkhahn’s headquarters in Bad Münder, Germany, was ultimately enlisted to produce Chassis—a lightweight (about 12 pounds), flexible chair with a delicate-looking frame of thin sheet metal and a removable polypropylene seat. Diez plans to expand the collection to include an armrest and a cantilevered version and to upgrade the polypropylene to an experimental ecomaterial: a biodegradable mixture of plastic and hemp. “We decided to use proven materials to control the risk and use the other technology when it is ready,” the designer says. And when will that be? “I’m sure it will take some years,” he concedes. Here Diez talks about the technologically challenging Chassis, available, at long last, in white, gray, and black.