You’ve seen the chair designs of Kenneth Smythe on SolidSmack before, but that will not be the last you’ll see. With hundreds of chair and table variations in the works, he’s elevating the visual function of sitting, above the seat and creating designs based on a musical passacaglia of furniture design floating in a narrative of asymmetric permutations.


The approach that Kenneth has to each design is phenomenal. Using concepts based in musical theory, he sketches the designs first on graph paper. While he’s built some of the designs in his shop, with the amount of variations he is experimenting with, he has turned to creating photorealistic renderings of the furniture pieces. The images you see below were create from his sketches, rendered in modo by Rob Rodriguez of Axis CAD solutions. The titanium chair renderings were created by Tulip. Kenneth explains his process best:

All my designs over the last 30 years were built creating a design vocabulary that can be used over and over again on different production systems that would make random sequencing of designs possible so that one of a kind designs can be mass produced. This makes it possible to mass produce sheet material designs using lasers or abrasive water jet cutting tools. PVC designs can be produced as one of a kind by using a computer controlled layout jig when assembling the pvc fittings using a welding solvent. The seating geometry for all my lounge chairs is constant as well as the geometry for my square back chairs. The geometry in its simplest form is used for the pvc chairs. My thinking is that a great idea should be able to generate thousands of variations. Think of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms who were masters of the variation form in music.

All my designs are open source so anyone can use my ideas as they choose. If you look at my chairs in musical terms it may be easier to understand. All my chairs are in passacaglia like variation form with the chair’s secondary function of sitting taking the place of the ground base. The seating panels identical for seat and back are the same for over thousands of variations. The primary function of my chairs is visual. They are domestic sculptures to be in the home for inspiration and contemplation. The sitting function is not compromised and is viewed as an [Ancillary Support System] where (comfort is a given).

GLOBOPOLIS I

The renderings below are of a titanium chair I designed over 16 years ago. GLOBOPOLIS I chair is one of 21 variations created at that time. I have designed about 50 titanium chairs and stopped when I realized that the cost to produce a prototype of any of these chairs would be over $30,000. I bring up this chair because I had conceived of a system to mass produce one of a kind titanium chairs. The primary structural materials are titanium strapping 2″ and 4″ wide x 1/4″ thick and various diameter titanium tubing.

The titanium pieces are cut to length and bent on a computer controlled bending machine next the thick walled tubing (hubs) are cut to length and placed on a computer controlled layout jig with the pre cut strapping lengths placed between the hubs and welded using a high powered, twin beam, rapid scanning laser welder. As soon as one design is completed the programs are changed to produce the next design. The seating dimensions for all lounge chairs is constant as is the seating for all square back chairs. As far as I know there is no production system like this in existence.

RHYZOMIC LEXICON I-CX

I am in the process of completing top view drawings for sixty more tables in the RHYZOMIC LEXICON I-CX table set of variations. I have many sets of chair variations that differ in how the chair seating is brought to the floor. On my RICHLITE chairs the seat and back panels are identical which simplifies mass production.

RESPONSUM LEVARE

RESPONSUM LEVARE chairs are a visual passacaglia with the constant seating function acting as a ground base. In a real sense I am not designing chairs since the seating is identical for hundreds of designs. I am designing domestic sculptures which vary about the seating function. All of my chairs have titles and sub titles which constitute an abridged narrative for each chair and an over arching collective narrative. RESPONSUM LEVARE XII, XIII and XXIX chairs. XXIX is an [Asymmetric Permutation 6] of XII and XIII.

MATERIALS

The material used with the later designs is called RICHLITE (phenolic resin and paper) and is traditionally used for counter tops. I have the material made to 3-1/4″ thick and later planed to 3″. This is a very strong durable material that is not damaged by sun light. Go to richlite.com for specs and samples.

I’d very much like to thank Kenneth for the detail on his chair designs and compliment him on his approach he takes to designing them.

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.