Can This Set of Chairs Really Represent Cell Division?

Can This Set of Chairs Really Represent Cell Division?

This set of chairs, dreamt up by Julian Sterz, might not be the most practical set of furniture — but it’s certainly thought provoking. One original chair is cut into equally-sized pieces, and each quarter then donated to one of four separate wire-frame versions of the same chair.

As Sterz has already written, this dissection and reassembly into four new structures is reminiscent of cell division; each new creation contains the same basic design elements of the original, but now shared between four offspring. In his own words:

“I have an idea. You take any chair, with four legs and saw it into four equally-sized pieces. The resulting 1/4-chairparts will be added to four place-keeper-chairs, which lack the corresponding piece. The resulting new four complete chairs enrich themselves of the value and design of the original chair which has undergone some kind of cell division.”

Initially keen to use an expensive chair for the project – a Louis XIV or Eames chair, say – he eventually plumped for a more workaday wooden household chair. The wire-frame chairs are, true to their name, made from steel wire.

Of course, there’s no limit to the line of thinking employed here: the chairs could be split into eight, sixteen, thirty two pieces. But it’s in this aspect of the project where Sterz’s thesis falters.

Cell division simply requires that fundamental strand of DNA to be present for an exact replica to be reproduced. Sterz’s chair, of course, lacks that defining chemical string: its form and function isn’t neatly encoded within every element of its being. Rather, it is very much the sum of its parts: cut it into pieces that are sent their separate ways and, unlike those dividing cells, you lose information.

From a front leg you can infer what the back may look like, but there’s no way of knowing. So stretch the project to its limits and you dilute the essence of the chair to the point where each new creation bears little relation the original – and that puts a rather large hole in Sterz’s thesis.

Still, it’s an engaging and interesting piece, and his desire to develop the idea into a functional set of furniture which can be mass produced is rather exciting. While we’re on the subject of chairs, you should watch this short video, The Hidden Chairs, by Benoit Convers (below). It’s a playful refresher after Sterz’s contemplative study.