Rethinking Sitting by Peter Opsvik
For millions of years on earth the human race has led physically active lives. Throughout the most recent centuries, however, industrialization has fostered passivity and the growing predominance of the sitting posture for more and more people. In an increasing number of societies, chairs and furniture for sitting have become standard pieces of equipment in the workplace, institutions and private homes. These sitting devices were formed according to the established standard of the chair, based on the “–accepted western manner of sitting”.
In Peter Opsvik’s Rethinking Sitting, the issue is addressed as to whether this is the only, and functionally best, design for the human body. When the various authorities in ergonomics were all promoting their one and only “correct” sitting posture, his comment was that all of them were right. All of the recommended sitting postures were good, and he saw it as his task to design chairs that allowed as many different sitting postures as possible and to make it easy to move and change frequently
Via texts and examples drawn from a profuse production, the reader will gain insight into Opsvik’s thinking on the subject of sitting and will become acquainted with the philosophy that informs his furniture designs. The book is richly illustrated in colour and black and white, and it is not intended to be read integrally from cover to cover. Rethinking Sitting is quite simply a beautiful reference work containing useful information for all who are interested, for professional, educational or personal reasons, in sitting solutions.
About the author Peter Opsvik
Norwegian industrial designer born in 1939, trained at the Bergen College of Applied Art, (Bergen Kunsthåndverksskole, now Bergen National Academy of the Arts), and the Norwegian State College of Applied Art in Oslo (Statens håndverks- og kunstindustriskole or SHKS, now part of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts). Opsvik has worked as a freelance industrial designer since 1970, and currently has his own design studio in Oslo, with seven colleagues.
Peter Opsvik has attempted to overcome our stereotypical sitting habits with his unconventional seating solutions. His work shows how the norms of sitting nicely and sitting still can be broken.
In his work on developing seating solutions, Opsvik saw no point in trying to create further variants on pieces of furniture or objects which fulfil the Scandinavian Design criteria; enough products with these qualities had already been designed. Instead, he has worked on creating products at either end of the spectrum of this style. At one end, rational and ergonomic aspects are in focus – taking care of the human body’s requirements, while at the other end of the spectrum the most important criterion is expression.
With the rational, ergonomic products, Opsvik’s goal is to move the human body. With the other group of products or objects, he hopes to move emotionally. For many decades, he has worked in close collaboration with his manufacturers HÅG, Stokke and Cylindra, all of whom have received numerous Norwegian and international design awards.
In 2000, Peter Opsvik and members of his family founded The Minor Foundation for Major Challenges.
This foundation provides support for information projects that aim to limit climate changes caused by humankind.
In 2001 Peter Opsvik, along with the design foundation Norsk Form, initiated “Design without borders”, a not-for-profit programme linking design skills to efforts for development and humanitarian aid.
“Torsten and Wanja Søderberg’s Prize for 2000 is awarded to the Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik. Peter
Opsvik has been given the prize for his pioneering moveable, adjustable furniture, and for the fact that he
continuously – from a playful, daring and deeply human starting point – succeeds in developing ergonomics and aesthetics for those who have to sit for extended periods.”
Lasse Brunnström, Curator, The Röhsska Museum of Design and Decorative Arts
“As a designer he displays great versatility: apart from the child’s chair Tripp Trapp, Opsvik is known as the foremost designer behind the Balans principle; he is one of the world’s leading designers of work chairs; as an innovative practitioner attempting to fi nd dynamic solutions for working situations that involve extended sitting, he is unsurpassed; he is actively committed to the environment in a way that manifests itself in more than just words; and he produces aesthetic pieces of furniture that exhibit both poetic and musical qualities. The fact that he is also an active jazz musician contributes to painting a picture of a person with a playful approach to life and design work.”
Lars Elton, Norwegian journalist and critic
“Opsvik is someone so rare as a designer who works according to the functionalist dictum: form follows function. In the forest of people now raising the banner for Norwegian design, no-one comes even close to Opsvik, neither in terms of success nor originality.”
Erling Dokk Holm, critic, in the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv
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