1.3 Chair by Ki Hyun Kim


1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

Show RCA 2011: here's another project by Royal College of Art graduate Ki Hyun Kim: a balsa wood dining chair that weighs just 1.3 kilograms, making it even lighter than Gio Ponti's famous 1.7 kilogram Superleggera chair.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

The chair is made of compressed balsa wood protected by hardwood veneer to give it structural stability and a tough outer shell, while keeping it much lighter than Gio Ponti's 1957 effort.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

The chair, and a ladder made using the same technique (see image below) can be seen at Show RCA 2011 in London until 3 July.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

See also: Alternative Alarm Clock by Ki Hyun Kim

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

See all our stories about Show RCA 2011 »

The text below is from Ki Hyun Kim:

1.3 Chair


In starting to design a wooden chair, I looked at the properties of woods.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

What intrigued me most, was balsa wood.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

Balsa is a hardwood; but very unique. It grows fast, is light in colour, with a very soft, warm texture. Most surprising is its weight, as the lightest of all woods.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

Exploring this material, my process is based on reinterpreting craft techniques combined with developing alternatives to industrial methods.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

Although seemingly disparate, the combination retains a commitment to experiment, challenge and innovate.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

The chair intends to reflect practical considerations, in terms of production, use and everyday beauty, as well.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

I wanted to hatch ideas on my own, experiment with forms, materials and techniques.

1.3 Chair by by Ki Hyun Kim

Balsa wood + Veneer + Lime wood

390 x 420 x 780 mm

1.28 kg

  • designforneed

    another chair. congratulations. just what the world needs.

    i understand there is a critical shortage. (you obviously got this from your research.)

    whilst it might be physically light, you may wish to do some research into the environmental impact of balsa wood.

    and then consider what kind of "lightness" you should be designing for.

    • felix

      dunno why people are rating this down. amen sir

    • zilch

      And since when do you do research to design a chair? The design of chairs "for the sake of it" has been going on as long as the design profession, why be so negative now?

  • Justin

    Irregardless if the world needs another chair or not it certainly needs a more open and constructive mood with much less attitude!

    • Rob

      I agree with you Justin. It`s too easy to be negative, and far more difficult to be constructive. It might seem contradictory to say this, but I suggest that you learn the difference between irrespective and regardless if you want people to take your comment seriously…or is it the similarity you should look into? Either way, people will judge your comments as foolish if you continue to make such errors. Regardless of your typo, it is a good point.

  • Although I understand the critical note 'designforneed' makes – a designer might benefit from constructive criticism rather than the use of blunt sarcasm.

    I do not understand the remark regarding the environmental impact of balsawood – using hardwoods has a much greater impact. But then you might want to post this comment to all furniture designers using wood?
    The quest for lightness is good to reduce the environmental impact; however I do feel the design could have been much further explored.
    Good job – keep going!

  • capslock

    isn't balsa wood fragile? what is the life expectancy of this chair?

  • Pedro

    Simple. I like. People can go and do some humanitarianism if they're really concerned about what the world needs. Comments like those in regards to everyday products are ludicrous.

    • felix

      "humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings"*. Something you clearly lack.

      It is not ludicrous to be more sustainable by designing better and using different materials. This is more true of mass produced items than any others!

      * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanitarianism

      • Pedro

        Yes I clearly lack humanitarianism. Thank you for your link, I feel enlightened. Now go search – constructivism.
        What I meant was that its all to easy to come here and go "oh great another product that already exists, just what the world needs" and so on.
        But on the other hand from a quick search balsa wood is eco friendly and sustainable – It's light, easy to transport, grows quickly and takes no time to harvest.

    • zee

      If designers don't give a damn about what the world needs, well, they will soon or later become jobless.
      Now more than any other time in history, we are aware of the scarcity of certain resources and energies, as well as of people's opinions.
      To disregard this fact is risking to make design as a profession become irrelevant, anywhere outside the self-inflated bubble of design for the sake of design.

  • Well, I for one think it's a great idea. Somehow the designer used the same principles of surf boards (super-light core protected by sturdy exterior) and applied it to furniture design.

    I would love to have come up with it myself :)

  • Andrew Owl

    The idea of lightness in itself has been always used as a symbol of progress. Since the weight is not a relevant feature for the user ( while reasonable ) we can argue that the benefit would be on the transport and storage of the product, which is also a part of its life. Then less weight in transport equals less carbon footprint etc…BUT , and this is a big BUT..the chair is not stackable, and so you loss your argument and your good reasons…

  • jeff K

    come on guys, designforneed is right. It is wasteful to create something like this when society doesn't need another chair. In fact, we don't need another piece of music or paintings or sculpture, or anything that is beautiful but not practical for our fragile future. No fun is allowed until the world is saved!

    • zee

      (I am reading your comment as sarcastic – correct me if I'm wrong)

      Nobody said the world didn't need beautiful things.

      Personally, I think the question 'who needs another chair' is a relevant one (but actually would better fit many more products much less useful than chairs, and much more wasteful than this particular balsa one – ex: who needs the penguin soap dispenser?).

      The implication in your comment is that what designers are producing is beautiful. And that it fulfills the same emotional need as art does.

      I see the debate here really revolving around the actual role of designers – what are they to do? if they are not wowing us off our seats by the aesthetic beauty of their creations, nor fulfilling practical needs, nor participating in economizing material, then where is their purpose? can designers be as useful as artists? etc.

      Note: funny that the conversation was generated around a project which actually made a lot of efforts to be 'good' – this chair probably doesn't deserve as much ire, but the first comment launches a great discussion.

  • NOE

    And please, stop showing hands with objects, it's so bad…If you want to show a human part, show someone sitting…actually pictures without human sitting is a crazy mistake…

    • Hercule Poirot

      If you show a person sitting on a chair, you only see that person. In this case I agree it's better not to see the chair.

    • janetb

      The idea was not to show a hand but rather to show how light it is–one would not be able to hold any non-balsa wood chair like that….:-)….

  • barry f

    does anyone know how sturdy/strong this is? a few friends of mine went to a show it was presented at n wasnt allowed to sit on, fair play if it was a one off, but no one was allowed to sit on it or pics to show it in use, i love the idea of this chair but needs to be proven to be strong enough to use day in day out

  • haircut

    I agree with a previous post. While i admire the designer for striving to make a super light chair, a lot more exploration should have been put in to the design. Balsa wood is super fragile, and dents easily, so I don't really see it going to a mass market – and isn't that the reason it would need to be light in the first place? – To save money and fuel in shipping it by the truckload?