words Anna Bates
Cabbage Chair is made from a roll of pleated paper sheets. Designed by Japanese collective Nendo, the sheets are peeled down from the top of the roll, one by one, to form the chair.
The piece was commissioned by fashion designer Issey Miyake, who wanted to find a way of recycling the unwanted by-product of the fabric-pleating process. Usually, the pleated paper sheets are rolled into a long drum and secured with tape before being disposed. Nendo’s first idea was to combine them with other materials, but this didn’t work. “In the end we just started peeling the sheets back from the drum, like corn husks,” says Oki Sato, one of the five members of Nendo. “We didn’t really design it – we found it. We had a roll and we started peeling.”
Despite its delicate, rice paper-like quality, the 80cm-high, 70cm-wide chair can withstand the weight of a person comfortably. The paper, which has a consistency “between tracing paper and tissue paper”, has already been blended with resin to protect it from the heat of the pleating machine. This prevents the sheets from tearing too easily and creates a soft but firm seating experience.
Cabbage Chair will be presented at 21st Century Man, an exhibition curated by Miyake to celebrate the first anniversary of research centre 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo, which he co-founded. “Miyake thinks that people will find where they want to be this century,” says Sato. “It’s somewhere more primitive, and more ecologically conscious.”
Although the chair is not yet for sale, Nendo hopes that its simple manufacturing process will make it a viable product. “The rolls could just be sent to the customer with instructions,” says Sato. “We have designed a concept rather than a product.”
top image The chair is made from a by-product of the fabric-pleating process
The disposable paper sheets are rolled together to form drums
The sheets are then peeled away and folded down one by one
The pleats give the paper sheets elasticity as well as structural resistance