In 1986, Ron Arad designed Well Tempered Chair, bolting sheets of steel together to form a chair full of tension. Using the archetypal club chair as its model, its design is simple – four pieces of tempered steel form the shape – two for the arms, one for the seat, and one for the back. The engineering of the piece is plain to see and according to Arad ‘what you see is what you get – there is no illusion’.
Well Transparent Chair, 2010 is a contemporary re-interpretation of the original made of temper-rolled stainless steel. The basic architecture of the chair remains the same, but it has been re-imagined by Arad in transparent polycarbonate, radically altering the personality of the piece.
Both ‘tempered’ chairs subvert our expectation of how a chair should behave. The chair’s apparent immateriality induces an anxiety about its ability to support us – it is, in fact, comfortable and sound – unexpectedly so. This playful duplicity between how a work looks and how it feels is one of the reasons why the original ‘Well Tempered Chair’ has proved such an enduring work.