Benchmark with Foster + Partners: the genesis of a chair

The OVO collection of chairs by Foster + Partners for Benchmark features an ergonomic design and sinuous forms achieved with a mix of craft and technology. See more in our video

Three chairs by Foster and Partners and Benchmark, photographed to show three different angles and featuring brown leather seats
The armchair from the latest additions to the OVO collection by Foster & Partners for Benchmark, with a leather upholstered cushioned seat. The chairs were photographed at London's British Museum
(Image credit: JAKE CURTIS)

Foster + Partners presents the OVO series of chairs for Benchmark, a trio of seats made of solid oak and walnut, completing a larger collection of wooden furniture designs (opens in new tab) including tables, benches and shelving (opens in new tab). The new additions to the OVO collection of furniture comprise an armchair, a stackable side chair, and a lounge chair, each crafted in solid European oak or American walnut

Chair design by Foster + Partners

Circular wooden table with four chair and leather seating

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

Expressing both visual and tactile beauty, the collection originated from a single table design, later expanded into a full family of domestic furniture, and now including the three new chairs. 

The design is based on smooth joinery (opens in new tab) and soft geometries, resulting in a collection that is solid, timeless and durable, but that also invites touch. ‘We wanted it to be designed to express craft, to be tactile, natural,’ says Mike Holland, Foster + Partners’ head of industrial design, explaining that the chairs were conceived ‘from a rigorous and iterative process of making’.

Continues Holland: ‘The chair continues the OVO design philosophy, it celebrates the age-old tradition of craftsmanship in design objects. The pillowed surfaces invites the arms to rest softly, it really is an ergonomic detail that eliminates uncomfortable pressure points.’

Wooden long table with light fittings and eight chairs

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

Benchmark’s co-founder Sean Sutcliffe and team worked to achieve the tactility of the collection, combining traditional techniques with precise machinery. ‘As craftsmen, I think we all believe that our best tools are our hands, but there is no doubt that a 5-axis CNC machine comes a close second,’ he says. 

The chairs’ conception focused on both wellbeing, with an ergonomic design imagined for the body’s maximum comfort, and sustainability, something that Benchmark has been developing throughout its collections. ‘The only meaningful statements on sustainability are those that can be measured and verified,’ adds Sutcliffe, citing independently verified Environmental Product Declarations that demonstrate the cradle to grave environmental performance of the pieces. Each chair from the OVO collection, he explains, is carbon negative and manufactured to remain a carbon store for its entire life. 

Watch: the genesis of OVO chair by Foster + Partners for Benchmark

INFORMATION

benchmarkfurniture.com (opens in new tab)
fosterandpartners.com (opens in new tab)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.

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