Not to be outdone by the Morpheus Hotel, Zaha Hadid Architects released the complete research prototype of an architectural chair that costs $145,000. Or, in other terms, as much as a mortgage on a home.
The Lapella chair is made of polished Palissandro marble from Italy through a fancy engineering process that harnesses the compressive properties of stone into a super thin and light seat. If the design itself looks familiar, that’s because ZHA modeled Lapella off one of the most iconic chairs ever made, the “shell” chair, originally created in 1963 by Danish furniture designer Hans J. Wegner.
Wegner’s original “shell” chair was one of the 500-plus chair designs he created during his lifetime — a focus that earned him world-renowned status in the modernist pantheon. “Shell” is noted by its three-leg construction and lightness of materials. After all, the original was made with steam-bent plywood and not heavy marble.
But leave it to ZHA to build an arcing wooden chair out of stone.
“We retain the proportions, scale, and recline from the Danish design while deploying contemporary stone tooling and carbon fiber composites,” says ZHA on the official website. “Forged using precision CNC milling and the application of tailored textiles, it renders visible its own making and the forces that flow through its thin-shell skin.” Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.
All we hear is the $145,000 price tag, which may not ring so sharply if you’re the billionaire Russian who had the pockets to convince Hadid to build the only private residence in the architectural firm’s history … but not a guy who drinks Bud Light and eats mac and cheese three times a week. (Don’t hate.)
Indeed, Lapella sits closer to the ancient Greek sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons than it does your pappy’s Barcalounger. Its tectonic approach, an architectural method of combining design software with traditional construction methods, was a collaboration by ZHA principle designer Patrik Schumacher, the AKT II engineering team, and primary sponsor Generelli SA. It’s safe to say Lapella was made for the purpose of art and design exploration, but not to solve the need for a cushy seat to rest your bum.
“Lapella continues our mission to develop design tools that generate geometry expressive of light-weight material utilization and structural performance,” says ZHA. We saw a similar pursuit recently with ZHA’s new Morpheus hotel which seems to weave and bend into itself like a dreamscape.
In so few words, ZHA sought for Lapella to help them use furniture as a “human-scale test-bed for the full-scale deployment of novel material and manufacturing technology at architectural scale,” which leads us to believe ZHA might be planning something bigger and even more expensive and made from a similar manipulation of marble somewhere in the future.
Or they’ll get distracted by making a copper toilet that costs a quarter million. You never can tell with ZHA.