chair collage.jpg


Haikou, Hainan, China
Haikou College of Economics, Yahe Habitat Engineering College

On the last week of 2020, DA! has been teaching the Improvisation Chair workshop in Haikou Institute of Economics, Hainan. Students came from various majors and different grades, but what united them, was curiosity and thirst to try something new.

During this workshop we explored the idea of ‘improvisation’, which has been one of our studio’s main design principles. We didn’t design chairs in a traditional way, but rather ‘let them appear’, get their shape and character directly from the materials we found around. Intuition and sensitivity were the key in this process.

We believe for a young designer their thinking always goes first. Every day is full of micro-challenges, which are to be resolved independently and firmly. Later students will choose their research interest, or the program of their dream building - but now we start from the chair, the most basic furniture piece, closest to human body. In a limited time and restricted material palette, students speeded their decision making pace, re-imagined what chair can be, dove into advanced narratives, and, of course, practiced their hand making skill.

Students visited class improvisationally, at unpredictable times, as each of them had their own classes - we kept our doors open for the whole week. This required us to adapt course methodology to make a strong result - in the end, it was rather a spontaneous collaboration between students, so they had to learn to listen to each other and create together. Luckily, they accepted the new game rules, playing around the studio, completing ten chairs by the end of the week. As there are no two identical personalities, so there were no two chairs which had the same appearance. Improvisation workshop frees the design process, encourages diversity, in contrast to the prevailing exam-based education in China. When everyone is different, everyone is the best.

Yet the topics raised in designs turn these little experiments into art statements. There was ‘The Last Chair on Earth’ questioning what will remain after the human civilization extinction, whilst cheeky ‘Sit My Dish’ turns its user into a guest on a weird party. Old chair upcycling projects, such as ‘Winged Swing’ let the broken rusted chair fly, and ‘Cradle’ was a nostalgic piece for the childhood seashore memories. ‘Tesla Chair’ used ingenious bamboo structure to express the complex science theory, and using no hard joints made this structure completely reversible. ‘Whatever’ chair brings white hoses to substitute the missing seating, playing with soft and hard, with an art piece quality. Students also designed the magician chair, the couple chair, the flipping chair, which all made up an exciting installation int the school atrium.