One of the most iconic chairs in modern design is returning to its structural roots, thanks to more environmentally-friendly developments in manufacturing. Furniture maker Herman Miller this week announced that its Eames Molded Plastic Chair and Side Chair will now be produced in fiberglass, more than 20 years after designer Ray Eames abandoned the material over environmental concerns. Both models will be available this summer in various bases and nine "vintage" colors.
The Michigan-based Herman Miller began producing Ray and Charles Eames' chair in 1950, using fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The chair itself went through several design iterations over the next decades, but the fiberglass remained until 1989, when Herman Miller and Ray Eames determined that the material was hazardous to the environment — both in manufacturing and as a non-recyclable final product. Production was suspended until 2000, when the company began producing the Molded Chair in recyclable polypropylene.
A greener version of the original
Now, Herman Miller says it has come up with a process that eliminates the harmful pollutants associated with earlier manufacturing, allowing for the creation of an emission-free and recyclable Molded Plastic Chair with fiberglass shells intact. Drawing on processes first used in the auto industry, the manufacturer's approach eschews wet glue adhesives for heat-activated polyester, and incorporates a monomer-free resin. According to the company, this makes for a safer environment for manufacturers, and results in a completely recyclable finished product.
Ray and Charles Eames' Molded Plastic Chair evolved from the Molded Plywood Chair introduced in the 1940s. Unlike its predecessor, the plastic version consisted of a unified cup-like seat, designed for a wide range of interiors and colored with the Eames' trademark playful aesthetic. For a more detailed timeline of the Eames Molded Plastic Chair, click here.