SILQ by Steelcase: Changing the way we sit

In past blogs, we’ve focused a lot on ergonomic office design and the wellbeing of staff.

We’ve explored the impact of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace, the importance of good posture and how to prevent back and neck pain in the workplace.

Back in 2013, we also looked specifically at the Steelcase Gesture chair and how its design reflected the evolution of technology in the workplace.

A lot has changed since then and, having taken you on a whistle-stop tour of the Steelcase Learning + Innovation Centre in Munich in a recent blog, we thought we’d look at one of the most recent additions to the global office-furniture manufacturers’ portfolio; the SILQ chair.

SILQ; the office chair that’s part of you

Just as the Gesture chair was designed to reflect the way people used mobile devices in the workplace, the concept behind SILQ’S design was creating a chair that responded to the natural movement of the human body.

Pushing the boundaries of material science, Steelcase experimented with carbon fibre to create a completely new kind of chair for the workplace.

In the words of James Ludwig, Vice President of Global Design & Engineering at Steelcase, “You don’t just sit on it, you are part of it.”

The right time for a new kind of chair

The idea behind SILQ came from a simple design sketch Ludwig drew in 2008 of a chair that required virtually no adjustments.

Technology hadn’t advanced enough to be able to produce it, so the project was put on hold.

Inspired by a TED talk from Paralympic sprinter Aimee Mullins, Ludwig was intrigued by the durability, flexibility and responsiveness of her carbon fibre prosthetic legs and revisited his design.

He led a team that was tasked with creating a new approach to ergonomic furniture.

Spectacular failures and a breakthrough

From the start, their mission was clear; to build a chair that cradles you based on the inputs you give it rather than any mechanical adjustments.

The aim was to replace the machinery typically found underneath most chairs with just one adjustment - height.

Sourcing the right material was vital and, after some “spectacular failures”, the team were convinced that they had found the right solution.

The breakthrough came from studying the properties of carbon fibre.

The price of strength and responsiveness

SILQ is extremely strong, incredibly thin and highly responsive.

The team of engineers and designers at Steelcase worked hard on where and how the chair moved so that it could change rates of resistance depending on a person’s stature and posture.

They first built a simple system using carbon fibre where the material became the mechanism for adjustment. However, the expense of using carbon fibre meant that SILQ wouldn’t necessarily be financially accessible to everyone.

A second breakthrough

Not wanting it to be limited to a premium solution, Ludwig asked his team to find a way of creating SILQ using something that replicates the properties of carbon fibre but without the associated costs.

A second breakthrough resulted in a patent-pending process that allowed the creation of SILQ chairs using a high-performance polymer. A fraction of the cost of carbon fibre, it made SILQ available to everyone.

The team at Steelcase had not only created an innovative new chair design but also a new material composition and a new process.

Changing the way we sit

For Steelcase, SILQ is not an endpoint but an exciting beginning.

Its creation coincides with the new ways that people are beginning to work, moving throughout the office more frequently and spending less time at a designated space.

Designed for people on the move, SILQ makes it easy to get comfortable quickly.

Now an individual can sit anywhere within a working environment and know that the chair will adapt to their posture without having to readjust it.

You can find out more about the SILQ chair in Steelcase’s article, Innovation Redefined.

If you’d like to find out how this and other innovations in office furniture and workplace design can improve the experience for your staff, get in touch with the team at Paramount.

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Categories: Office DesignOffice Design TrendsOffice Furniture

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