A White Plastic Chair

In 1961, the world as we know it changed with a single invention. Designer Vico Magistretti, created a chair from a single piece of plastic. He called it “Selene”. The s-curve in the legs gave it strength, and the ability to stack the chairs and create them from one piece of plastic led to a revolution in furniture. This is the history of the monobloc chair.

Selene is a part of the collection at MoMA
Selene is a part of the collection at MoMA

Introduced to the market in the early 1980s, the monobloc quickly became a world known (but not necessarily renown) chair. And it is no surprise as the chairs cost a mere $3 to manufacture (done by injecting molten plastic into a mold). It doesn’t matter what continent you find yourself on, the monobloc is nearly ever present. Media scholar Ethan Zuckerman commented:

The Monobloc is one of the few objects I can think of that is free of any specific context. Seeing a white plastic chair in a photograph offers you no clues about where or when you are.

Photo by Paul Keller via
A modified chair in Havana, Cuba.
Photo by Paul Keller via PlasticChair.org

Today, these plastic chairs have seen many modifications and creatives reuses. Designers Josep Mora and Clara Romaní used the monobloc to create cheaper wheelchairs in Rwanda. Their design eliminates much of the cost of a wheelchair with its only large cost being the wheels. And in order to promote self-sustainability, the user of the wheelchair is involved in the process of building it. If the chair breaks, they will have a much better grasp on how to fix it themselves.

Mora and Romaní in Rwanda Photo © Josep Mora
Mora and Romaní in Rwanda
Photo © Josep Mora

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *