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Natural fiber composite meets design at Ventura Lambrate’s ‘Poetry Happens’ exhibition. Berlin-based designer/architect Werner Aisslinger, designed Hemp Chair the first monobloc chair designed using natural fibers that have been molded under heat using a special eco-friendly resin, resulting in a sustainable composite material. The project is supported and is in cooperation with the German chemical company BASF. Previewed at Milan Design Week 2011, the chair features a very complex design with soft curves and a visually captivating horizontal and vertical wing structure.

While today’s consumers are striving towards a well-balanced, sustainable, and healthy lifestyle that is in harmony with the environment, they are in search of innovative eco-friendly products. Hemp Chair has been designed with the above criteria in mind; created from a lightweight manufacturing process stemming from that of the car industry: the renewable raw materials hemp and kenaf are compacted with a water-based thermoset binder to form an eco-friendly, lightweight and yet strong composite. Berlin-based Designer Werner Aisslinger claims that the development of Hemp Chair marks a turning point in this trend. “Design history is driven by new technologies and material innovation. For us designers, the advent of these technologies has always been the starting point for new objects and typologies in design.”

Hemp Chair is designed in the tradition of monobloc stackable chairs such as the famous Panton chair, which has been made of rigid expanded plastic. Shaping a complete chair structure from a thin layer of material is one of the most challenging ways to design and engineer a chair. Hemp Chair, with its soft curves and its bead structure, embodies a new approach to this complex type of chair. With the usage of Acrodur®, a lightweight, strong, eco-friendly and easy to mold material sheet, which allowed the use of more than 70% natural fibers in combination with BASF’s water-based acrylic resin. Dissimilar to the typical reactive resins, Acrodur® does not discharge any organic substances such as phenol or formaldehyde during the cross-linking process; the only by-product of the curing procedure is water.

Furthermore, the industrial process of compression molding accounts for low-cost mass production of three-dimensional objects with high mechanical resistance and very low specific weight. Additionally, let’s not forget that this project would have not been made possible had it not been for BASF the world’s leading chemical company, with products ranging from chemicals, plastics, performance products and agricultural products to oil and gas. With high-value products and intelligent solutions, BASF plays an important role in finding answers to global challenges such as climate protection, energy efficiency, nutrition and mobility.

About Werner Aisslinger´s Technology Experiments
Werner Aisslinger is amused by the useage of the latest technologies; he has helped introduce new materials and techniques to the world of product design such as his unique “soft cell” gel furniture collection and the “soft” chaise for Zanotta in 2000. The “Juli” chair for the Italian manufacturer Cappellini was the first piece of furniture made of polyurethane integral foam and became the first German chair design to be selected as a permanent exhibit at the MoMA in New York since 1964. In Milan in 2010, Werner Aisslinger presented his *NETwork – 3D stitching furniture* project with objects made by means of high-tech programming technology combined with traditional stitching techniques. His work is exhibited in the permanent collections of international museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the French Fonds national d´artcontemporain in Paris, the Neue Sammlung Museum in Munich, and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Project: Hemp Chair
Year: 2011
Designer: Werner Aisslinger
Materials: hemp, kenaf (Malvaceae), water-based thermoset binder Acrodur®

Photos: Michel Bonvin
Written by: Marcia Argyriades

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