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A Taxonomy of Office Chairs is an exhaustive visual history of a single design typology. The book exemplifies author Jonathan Olivares’ meticulous approach to design research, and his desire to catalogue the entire development of the industrially produced chair for the office, a hugely technically and culturally complex object. Olivares begins his survey at the beginning of the 1840s, a period agreed upon to have seen the origins of modern business management, and ends it in the present. Over this period he has selected 184 of the most innovative office chairs from the thousands that have been designed and manufactured. This rigorous selection process has been underpinned by one rule; only chairs that have introduced at least one innovation have been included. For example, Wilhelm Ritz’s 232 Chair, produced for Wilkahn in 1970, is included as it was the first to make use of a gas cylinder to adjust the height of the seat. The selection includes chairs by some of the most revered product designers and architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Sapper, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Philippe Starck. Each chair is illustrated, each innovation is explained in a short text, and details of the designer and manufacturer are also provided. The book includes a second illustrated section, consisting of ten chapters of over 400 technical drawings.
Each chapter focuses on a single component of the chair, and further explains the development of chair design. The technical drawings are accompanied by page references which refer back to each of the 184 chairs illustrated in the first section of the book. A Taxonomy of Office Chairs also includes an essay by Olivares. Based on his discussions with a number of pivotal designers, this text puts Olivares' selection of chairs into a historical context and evaluates key elements of office chair design. The essay is illustrated with a series of photographs of office interiors from 1840 to the present, showing office chairs in situ. The book is unparalleled, and will serve as a detailed, encyclopaedic and professionally researched catalogue of a crucial area of industrial design.