Leading German design practice, Studio 7.5, talked to David Harrison about the soon to be released Mirra 2 – a new and improved version of their hugely successful, Mirra office chair.
August 14th, 2013
Once you discover that Studio 7.5 named their practice after the tonnage of a truck they once hired, you begin to get an inkling of how differently this Berlin based studio approaches its work.
Formed in 1992 by Burkhard Schmitz, Claudia Plikat, Carola Zwick, the studio now includes Carola’s brother, Roland Zwick. They may not be the most high profile design group around but they are certainly one of an elite few to have sold over 1.5 million of one single chair design.
Opposite to the popular notion of robotic German efficiency, the studio prefers to work in a more collaborative and hands-on way, in one open plan room that they jokingly refer to as their “Town Hall” because of its size. The studio also prototypes its own designs in the same large open space. “If you are a team of four designers with some interns and freelance designers, you cannot promote an idea with a drawing – it doesn’t work. For us it’s always about demonstrating a thing in 3D. A chair is the closest thing to an item of clothing because of the amount of contact it has with the body – so you obviously want to test-ride it. This leads to a lot of welding and heavy duty prototyping”, says Carola Zwick.
Studio 7.5 prides itself in perfecting the technical detailing and production solutions in-house. According to their CAD expert, Burkhard Schmitz, “We don’t hand it over until it’s over” – meaning until every last detail is resolved, right down to the workflow on the assembly line.
When Studio 7.5 contacted Herman Miller with a proposal to rework their highly successful ‘Mirra’ chair released in 2003, they were met with an understandably baffled reply: “A refresh for 20 million dollars? It’s not going to happen. Don’t you want to create something completely new?” However, the idea of newness for the sake of it is definitely not Studio 7.5’s style. “We started experimenting with the next level of ‘Mirra’ back in 2008. We had a wish list of items that we had fought for during the making of the original Mirra chair that we weren’t able to incorporate at the time because of technology constraints. Eventually we convinced Herman Miller that it would be worth the huge investment and they have completely retooled to make the new version”.
As a consequence, what to many was a near perfect general office chair, has now been completely redesigned over a five year period. Mirra 2 uses 28% less materials, is 22% lighter, yet supports nearly 23 kilos more weight. It is definitely more comfortable and far more beautiful from every angle. In the wise words of Burkhard Schmitz, “Revolution is overrated. Evolution is a very sensible principle”.
With the enlightened support of Herman Miller, Studio 7.5 has produced a better, more efficient chair that uses less material than it’s predecessor yet remains nearly 100 % recyclable. Now that’s progress!
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