By Elianne Halbersberg
Even if you don't fly, odds are you spend a lot of your day in an upright and locked position. Commuting to and from work, sitting at a desk, staring at a television-it is our sedentary lifestyles that cause us so much trouble over the long run. Between poor posture, lower-body compression and inadequate furnishings, it's no wonder that so many people suffer from back pain.
The new Grazie seating collection from KI is designed to assist with some of those aches and pains that come from being seated for long periods of time. Called "the world's first true ergonomic stack chair" by KI, Grazie's unique approach lies in its Perfect Pivot mechanism, which aims to align the chair's contours and movements with our own.
The latest collaboration between KI and award-winning designer Giancarlo Piretti, Grazie is equal parts American ingenuity and Italian style. Piretti spent over a year researching and completing the chair's concealed mechanisms and developing Grazie's virtual pivot. Taking into consideration the shifting and stretching that take place while people are seated, his goal was to create a four-legged, stackable chair that would offer the most comfortable backrest movement possible.
"We know that our body needs to move, including when we are seated," Piretti says. "Ergonomics tells us that when we wish to stretch on a chair, we lean backward, widening the angle between pelvis and thighbones. The vertex of this angle is the fulcrum of our hips. The more the rotation fulcrum of backrest flexibility gets from this 'ideal' rotation center, the more the backrest movement will not appear perfectly comfortable."
Piretti admits that it would have been easy to create an elastic joint for Grazie, with central placement of the rotation center, as is common in some chairs. However, he notes, "an elastic joint positioned at the height of our hips is very bulky, precluding the possibility to design a four-legged stackable chair."
Hence, the Perfect Pivot-an innovative and seamless design not found in other stacking chairs. "The user perceives a high degree of comfort but cannot understand the movement because there is no visible pivot," he says. "This 'surprise' makes the movement of Grazie a mystery. It's interesting to observe how people check the chair to understand where the movement comes from: at the playful discovery of the invisible pivot!"
This collaboration between KI and Piretti is just the latest in a relationship that spans more than 30 years. During that time, they have reached what Shawn Green, KI's vice president of design and product marketing, calls "a rhythmic working relationship that allows for an openly creative dialog."
"We treat Giancarlo as an extension of our in-house design and engineering team," he adds. "Grazie is a direct continuation of his desire to design the most comfortable stacking chair possible. Giancarlo approached KI with the idea of enhancing the user experience by providing a pivot point that naturally aligned with the way that people move, thereby increasing comfort."
Piretti's previous flexible backrest chairs for KI, the Dorsal and Torsion, provided mid-back and hip-level comfort points. Grazie, with its curved backrest and twin springs moving in tandem with the human body, marks the company's next evolution in stack seating.
"Like other Piretti designs, the product is not only highly functional, it is entirely pragmatic, as it is not over-stylized," Green says. "In short, it is a simple, elegant seating solution."
WATCH: See the Grazie stacker from KI in action in the I&S Media Center.
And while not a one-size-fits-all ergonomic chair, Grazie sure comes close. Piretti and Green agree that the size and structure can accommodate most users within an average percentile. Outside of the average, says Piretti, Grazie still offers a high level of comfort. The design was developed for a wide range of body types and sizes through the preload of the spring, "or the amount of force that it takes to begin the rotation of the back shell into the recline position," says Green, "and the rate, which is the amount of energy that a spring will require to push smoothly through the range of motion while offering resistance."
The fact that hours spent in chairs have a cumulative effect on waistlines did not go unnoticed during the design process. "The biggest challenge is designing for the 95th percentile, knowing that your audience is getting bigger and heavier over time," says Green. "The spring-and-tube approach allows us the ability to evolve the product to respond to a wider range of users without jeopardizing the design."
The Grazie Collection offers what Green calls "a platform approach to design," meaning a number of options, including four-leg, sled and pedestal bases. KI also plans to place Grazie in its lineup of fixed seating products. Designed to accommodate a variety of seating needs, from cafeterias to meeting rooms, computer labs to convention centers, Grazie promises to bring ergonomic ease to facilities everywhere.
"It is my hope that Grazie will help the market better understand how different KI is in our approach to design and products," says Green. "We want to offer the best value, features and relevance in the market. Grazie does that."
To learn more about Grazie, visit www.ki.com.
Elianne Halbersberg is a frequent contributor to Interiors & Sources. She has previously covered sustainability, architecture and interior design.