A Conversation for Functions of Chairs in the 20th Century
The Aeron Chair
Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession Started conversation Mar 11, 2003
This is a good example of a chair that defines a movement. The Aeron chair was adopted early on by high tech companies during the dot com boom. A single chair typically costs hundreds of dollars, though it fails at first glance to carry any denotation of heightened status. The typical model has a strong plastic frame and mesh instead of cushions, with a wide body and typical dark color.
The trick with the Aeron chair is that it is extremely proficient at adjusting to the human body. A person with such a chair can spend a few minutes adjusting it to their body's countours, and the chair will offer almost unbelievable levels of comfort forever more.
This was especially valued by programmers and other tech types who were working 80 hours per week or more in hopes of raising the value of their stock options in the fledgling companies where they worked. It became a much loved perk of the job. And as word got around, the chairs did indeed come to denote status among high tech companies.
And when the boom ended, the chairs once again became a hallmark. Many failed businesses were suddenly selling off their office inventories. High tech equipment seemed to glut the market, so that auction hounds could no longer feel much interest in enormous flat screen televisions or state-of-the-art servers. But right through the end, the buyers would come in droves to bid on those Aeron chairs.
I've been able to sit in two of them. The first was displayed at the Denver Museum of Art in Colorado in an exhibit on modern design, where it was quite comfy with its very generalized settings. The other was at a former workplace, in a conference room for a top level manager. The latter was only vaguely pleasant for me to sit in, but it conformed so perfectly to the manager in question that I could only sigh in envy.
Aeron chairs still exist, and are still sought after by those with jobs that keep them in the office far too much. But they are somewhat less hyped, because they will always carry a slight aura of failed dot com.
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