Material: Hemp with Acrodur binder
Firm: Studio Aisslinger
Standout: This combination of a rapidly renewable material and a solvent-free water-based resin offers truly new opportunities to create stackable furniture.
With a curvaceous cantilever, this chair echoes Verner Panton’s 1960 design, the first single-form, injection-molded plastic chair. But unlike that pre-decessor, Werner Aisslinger’s design gives new life to one of the world’s earliest domesticated plants, Cannabis sativa, aka hemp. Aisslinger’s monobloc stacking chair, a prototype for Moroso , elevates that humble natural fiber, used for such items as rope and paper, by combining it with a binder more commonly used by car manufacturers for interior door trims. A panel is thermoformed to produce the chair’s final shape. For more color than the pigmented binder can offer, the surface can be color-coated.
Though not the strongest of the natural fibers— that title goes to flax, which has a strength-to-weight ratio comparable to glass fiber—hemp still finds many applications. The new BMW i3 electric car has a host of interior panels manfactured with a process similar to that developed by Studio Aisslinger for the Moroso chair prototype, and Crailar Technologies, a British Columbia company with clients including Hanes, Target, Levi’s, and Carhartt, is using a patented process to produce soft, luxurious hemp fibers for apparel fabrics. There is even a concrete alternative called Hempcrete that, although not as strong as the traditional building material, provides better moisture regulation and thermal insulation. So, given these great properties, why don’t we see more hemp? Well, because its usefulness extends to being a widely smoked palliative and mild hallucinogen, it cannot be legally grown or traded in the U.S. Maybe the recent change of heart regarding cannabis in Colorado and Washington state could lead to a renaissance for this versatile fiber?
Text adapted from Material Innovation: Product Design by Andrew H. Dent & Leslie Sherr; printed by permission of Thames & Hudson , all rights reserved.