Expectations Broken By Design
Ron Arad (Ron Arad Associates)


Ron Arad, 1987

©Howard Kingsnorth

If I was asked to give an advice to a student about to graduate fronlanarchitectural or a design school, that advice would be "don't get employed, don't get a job". When you work for other people you definitely accumulate a lot of experience, but the way I see it is accumulation of bad habits. Architects and designers tend to do what they are trained to do, what they've practised all their life. And that's why things look so similar to other things. I know it's very easy to say that and you have to make a start. I can tell you what I did. After I graduated from the Architectural Association in London I had a brief experience of working for an architectural practice in Hamp- stead. For me it was very frustrating working on other people's ideas. The practice is their channel of creativity. There's no room for other people. So it didn't take me very long to realise "No, I'm not going to be employed". Yet I have this urge to design. OK, you don't get museums and cities to design, things you did in your final year at college, but there's no reason why you shouldn't de— sign a chair for example. There are problems there. Most chairs are manufactured at great tooling cost, the development cost. In the same way that no—one's going to give you a city to design, no—one's going to say "here, here's my factory, tooling cost, all that, let's produce your chair". That's why my first designs were based on development that already existed.


Rover Chair

©Monica Pidgeon

In the case of the Rover chair — that turned into a recognised object now five years later — it's scaffolding fittings and an old leather Rover 2000 car seat. The Rover chair is made of two components for which the development cost was already spent by other people. It had a car seat taken out of scrap yards. I always thought it's a shame that all this technology went into producing an amazing leather seat and then it's destined to die in a scrap yard. The frame on which I mounted it is tube. All I had to do is curve the two sides and use cast—iron fittings that were originally designed for cow-sheds in 1932. It's a very minimal design gesture that has clear echoes of Marcel Duchamp and ready-mades. By the way I always maintain that, when people ask me about influences, I always prefer to see myself associated with Marcel Duchamp rather than Marcel Breuer. In the same picture you can see a concrete table. Again, this table didn't need any tooling or any development expenses. It needs some shuttering ply and two bags of sand and two bags of cement. All these things, one could look at them as making do with what I had available. But I think there's more to it than just that. In the case of the concrete table, it was definitely the beginning of a new aesthetic that One Off - which was later to be my company — developed, and also the Rover chair is quoted as the first recycled marketed piece of furniture. I remember buying the first two I think for £5 each — the first two seats that is — thinking "what an irresponsible expense. Whoever is going to buy them?” And that was true for two years, and then something happened in the world, I don't know exactly what it is, but they became so much in demand that now there's one person who's job is to go through the scrap yards of London and collect Rover car seats. He retrieves about 30 seats a week.

Thanks for previewing this talk

If you would like to view the whole talk please follow one of the following links


Or if you already have an account: