Be Seated | Wood Collection

Exhibition Dates | July 26–August 15th, 2019

Established in 1990, the Design Tasmania Wood Collection is the largest public collection of its type in the world. Founded by Gary Cleveland, the collection began with ten items of furniture and has since expanded to include small objects, household items and the decorative arts. Acquisitions to expand the collection are made annually with the support of our private donors and Fellows Program. Successful acquisitions set the bar for quality in craftsmanship, originality, innovation and are, of course, Tasmanian designed and made from wood.

For many centuries the chair was a symbolic article denoting state and dignity rather than an object for ordinary use. Now a practical piece of everyday furniture, we often overlook its complexity because the elements seem so basic, designing a chair presents a myriad of aesthetic possibilities without compromising its core functionality.

The Design Tasmania Wood Collection (DTWC) contains a significant number of chairs, all exemplars of best practice in wood design and craftsmanship. Traditionally, the Collection is presented in the standard museum display format of individual, but isolated, objects, however ‘Be Seated’ focuses in on one part of our collection. By recontextualising known works in a spotlight survey, this exhibition showcases Tasmanian furniture design practice over the past 40 years.

Designing a chair or seat is one of the ‘must do’ portfolio requirements for any professional designer as they establish their catalogue of work. The challenge presented is one of testing the designer’s intellectual understanding of product design history, aesthetics and trends to inform their own interpretation, and the mechanics of ergonomics and performance requirements for the user, matched with a high level of technical skill and craftsmanship required to execute the concept in physical form.

We are pleased to present a proposed 2019 acquisition for the Design Tasmania Wood Collection: Rye Dunsmuir's 'XO Dining Chair'. The XO Dining Chair gains its name from the timber frame that extends vertically beyond the seating plane, effectively creating an ‘exoskeleton’. Alfred Buchinger, long time collaborator with Dunsmuir, is a master maker and craftsman who has built and constructed the frames for these chairs. His impact on Rye’s practice can be seen here alongside the final product in the prototypes showing the iterative cycle of Dunsmuir's design process as he refined the ergonomics and aesthetics in consultation with a group of end users over a four-year period. The brief was to create an object of classic proportion that met a number of specific user requirements; stability, access, weight, support and comfort. These factors combined to inform the structural and aesthetic qualities of this contemporary dining chair.

"Dunsmuir's XO Dining Chair is a great example of design process, co-design and craftsmanship: it's design thinking at its best"
– Claire Beale, Executive Director, Design Tasmania

Photo: Courtesy Rye Dunsmuir © 2019