At University, students are subject to excessive periods of time spent sitting in chairs that can cripple your posture and contribute to back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel, and many other physical structural problems (Design Museum, 2010, p. 75). Furthermore, German philosopher Hajo Eickhoff has criticised how the non-ergonomic Western chair effectively sedates the student into passivity, limiting the mind as much as the body (cited in Cranz, 2000).
Inspired by the ergonomics of Eastern sitting practices, Dekoboko is an upholstered ergonomic, kinesthetic and textural seat that reinterprets the traditional yoga bolster for the contemporary university setting to promote:
1. Active posture
2. Energetic sitting
3. Open communication
Meaning ‘bumpy’ in Japanese, Dekoboko is an upholstered semi-circle form with a lumpy cube texture that wraps around its face. This cube texture is inspired by innovative Japanese pattern-maker Tomoko Nakamichi, author of the cult pattern-making books Pattern Magic (Figure 1), and plays a crucial role in the ergonomics and the tactile and visual interest of the seating scenario.
Wrapping around the top and front of the bolster, the bumpy cubes guide the sitter to sit cross-legged on the bolster. By raising the hips gently above the floor, the seat prevents collapsing into the lower back as the pelvis is neutralized and abdominal and lower back muscles remain activated to maintain balance (Design Museum, 2010).
Inspired by the way Tibetan monks live close to the floor with low furniture, the bolster forces the sitter to rise from a lower position than we encounter sitting in a western chair. This engages the body in more active and aerobic movement from sitting to squatting and standing, refreshing the brain with new blood and the body with new energy (Cranz, 2000, p. 16), both essential for an alert and focused mind. The intriguing texture also provides a kinesthetic element, engaging the sense of touch to keep students physically engaged rather than passive (Design Museum, 2010, p. 75).
The semi-circle shape and light-weight foam core, was consciously integrated to enable the bolster to be moved and reconfigured easily into group seating arrangements and network patterns of communication. Inspired by the way Indian craftspeople (such the women working together on the floor on crochet in figures 2 & 3) work, talk and create intimately together when close to the floor, I am seeking to bring this active and free way of floor sitting to group work so students can interact, brainstorm, innovate and communicate openly and face to face, free from the obstacles of bulky desks and awkward chairs. The wild red, pink and orange colour scheme is intended to create an attractive pop of fresh colour and inspiration amidst the often bland and conservative interiors of university.
Key design developments include the change in shape from a trapezium to a semi-circle, a shape that better suited a variety of body sizes, allowed more sitting room and contrasted organic curves with cubic rigidity. Arranging the cube texture to match the arc of this shape effectively minimised the fabric wastage of the pattern greatly and allowed salvaged fabric and small scraps to be used.
The covering is made of hand-dyed 100% wool fabric, 95% salvaged from the scrap stores of NIDA’s costume department. This natural and renewable fibre was selected for its flame retardant, breathable, non-allergenic, durable, easy care, naturally insulating and its biodegradable properties. The final prototype features a core of polyurethane core. However, considering the serious environmental and health risks involved in the production of this common foam (isocyanates and polyols), future editions of the design would instead incorporate Green Polyurethane™, the first-ever modified hybrid polyurethane (PU) manufactured without using hazardous isocyanates at any point in the production process (NTI, 2014).
Overall, Dekoboko seeks to disprove the long held Western idea that raised seats were ‘one of those natural steps toward a higher civilization’ (Cranz, 2000, p. 14). By enabling the body to be active and comfortable and free to move, the bolster brings active learning and open communication down to earth.