Walter de Silva, Head of Volkswagen Group Design is a busy man. His job of overseeing design studios of more than half a dozen different car brands ranging from Bugatti to Škoda qualifies him to know something about making the most of a relaxing moment. As it turns out, that was the motivation for him to undertake the design of a more comfortable arm chair.
In the picture of a chair, I see order and discipline – an armchair, on the other hand, suggests precisely the relaxation that I’m longing for at the end of a long day of work.
Having access to a large chunk of the world’s top design talent, de Silva selected the secretly located Audi Concept Design Studio in Munich to assist him with the project. Based on initial sketches from de Silva, staff designers began creating mockups and prototypes to refine the design. The goal was to transform the traditionally hulking piece of furniture into a sleek and lightweight modern version without sacrificing user comfort. Audi’s expertise in using materials, specifically aluminum, for weight savings was the reason de Silva chose them for the collaboration.
The result is an arm chair called “Luft” (German for “air”). The main feature is a thin aluminum structural element that acts like the chassis of the chair, to which upholstered components are attached. It functions in a similar way to the structural frame of a car. In profile, the aluminum element highlights the contour of the backrest connecting to the base. This helps make the seat appear to hover in mid air.
The Luft armchair is being produced by Italian leather company Poltrona Frau using both handcraft and high-tech production techniques. The choice of Poltrona Frau wasn’t one removed from the automotive world either, the company has a tradition of supplying and producing leather and components for automakers like Ferrari, Bugatti and BMW.
Check out this video (in Italian) which shows the path from sketch to finished product: