The collaboration between hotel chain CitizenM and the Glasgow School of Art began in October 2020 with a well-defined mission: to give new life to iconic pieces by Vitra that adorn the CitizenM Glasgow hotel, which opened in 2010. 

A collaboration between Glasgow School of Art and CitizenM

A pink sofa by Bouroullec brothers for Vitra, repurposed by a student at the Glasgow School of art for citizenM hotel
‘Alcove’ sofa by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, repurposed by Ying Chang 

In early 2021, students from the interior design master’s degree course at the Glasgow School of Art were invited to take part in the project, reimagining the 2006 ‘Alcove’ two-seater sofa by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the 1970 ‘Amoebe Highback’ by Verner Panton, and Charles and Ray Eames’ lounge chair from 1956. Widely used throughout the hotel, the chairs were due to be discarded after ten years in use, and the students were asked to come up with design interventions using Scottish wool from local textile brand Bute. 

The three winning designs take into consideration the experience of the hotel’s guests, the pieces’ original design, as well as sustainability: repurposing the seating rather than discarding it. According to a report by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, titled ‘Re-arranging the Furniture’, approximately 1.6 million tonnes of furniture and bulky waste end up in landfill in the UK every year, a figure that includes roughly five million sofas. 

To coincide with COP26, taking place in Glasgow (until 12 November 2021), the three pieces are showcased within the hotel for a month. Two of the designs are due to be auctioned through Artsy, with the proceeds used to fund future sustainable design education at The Glasgow School of Art, while one will remain in situ at the CitizenM Glasgow hotel.

The three winning designs

Verner Panton Amoeba highback chair repurposed with new upholstery by a student of the Glasgow School of Art, inspired by the city’s botanical gardens and using a patchwork motif with purple and green wool
‘Amoebe Highback’ by Verner Panton, repurposed by Yun Liu

The three chosen designers are Ying Chang, who recreated the ‘Alcove’ sofa; Yun Liu, who transformed the ‘Amoebe Highback’; and David Ross, selected for his work on the Eames lounge chair. 

For her sofa, Chang was inspired by the Bouroullecs’ original concept of seating that creates ‘a room within the room’, and explored how that could be adapted to a busy hotel lobby. ‘This sofa is a fantasy; it has a small enclosed space that could offer privacy and a feeling of safety, like a cocoon,’ she says. Inspired by sails, the designer envisioned a pop-up, awning-like structure atop the sofa that, once open, adds extra privacy and sound insulation.

Working on the ‘Amoebe Highback’, Liu likened the Verner Panton-designed chair (one that makes people feel comfortable and relaxed, she observed) to the greenery of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. The designer imagined the chair landing on Glasgow’s lawns and feeding off its greenery, a concept she replicated with a patchwork-style motif on the chair’s sinuous forms using a mix of textured fabrics in varying shades of green and purple. 

Finally, David Ross’ intervention for the Eames lounge chair references Glasgow’s art deco theatres and motifs from the city’s transport system. Ross notes that when the chair was originally designed, in 1956, the site of CitizenM would have been surrounded by theatres, only some of which currently remain. His lounge chair is draped in theatre curtains and upholstered with a patchwork design (a technique he favoured for its low environmental impact) referencing traditional Glasgow Corporation transport livery colours. 

Eames lounge chair repurposed by a student a the Glasgow School of Art for CitizenM Hotel
Eames lounge chair, repurposed by David Ross

The three designers were selected by a panel including Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas, Vitra chief design officer Christian Grosen Rasmussen, and Claudia Abt, CitizenM’s design director. Each student was supported throughout the project with mentoring and access to Vitra for insights into furniture-making processes. Textiles were provided by Bute, and the designs were completed by Glasgow-based studio Art of Upholstery.  

‘This was a tremendous opportunity for our students to develop their professional practice and to benefit from the expertise of one of the world’s most influential design companies,’ says Penny Macbeth, director of The Glasgow School of Art. 

Adds Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer of CitizenM: ‘With this project we were also able to further our sustainability mission and inspire [others] to diminish waste by seeking to reuse and repurpose quality pieces rather than discard and replace them.’ §