Taking The Weight Off Your Feet21 July 2009
Seat design, both in the air and on the ground, has stepped up a gear, not just in terms of comfort and cost-efficiency, but also in its overall aesthetic value
In the air
First-class seat/bed JAL Suites, design by James Park Associates
Japan Airlines asked James Park Associates to design a first-class seat that would reflect the airline’s great hospitality and attention to detail, express the value it places on its first-class customers and reflect Japan’s culture. The seat also needed to offer enhanced space and privacy, and differentiate the airline from rivals. It was a perfect task for JPA, which has been a designing luxury interior for the aviation, rail and hospitality industries for 25 years.
JPA’s JAL Suites offer a seat, storage area, dining table and an ottoman. Each seat converts into a forward-facing, 89cm-wide, 2mlong, lie-flat bed. All suites provide aisle access, and the tables can be swivelled even when in use to allow passengers to leave their seats, each suite is like a passenger’s home in the sky and is a relaxing environment for long-haul flights.
Clark, designed by Factory design, manufactured by Acro
Acro, which manufactures and designs aircraft seating, spotted an opportunity in the hort-haul market to create a product that provides a lot of space and comfort, at a low cost, and with minimal maintenance requirements. Collaborating with Factory design and Jet2.com, it developed Clark.
All the foam and trimmings of a conventional seat have been stripped away, and Factory design went out of its way to make sure every component of the Clark seat served both a functional and an aesthetic purpose. No parts require cladding or covering, which creates a minimal appearance and a very light seat: a triple set of chairs weighs just 31kg.
The back of each seat is bucket shaped and made out of a composite material that curves up for lumber support, rather than using foam for support, like traditional seats. With this shape, passengers gain 6.4cm in knee space, plus the 5cm to 7.6cm gained by cutting down on the foam.
In addition to reducing the parts, any component of the seat can be adjusted in less than two minutes with just an Allen key, which is crucial in the low-cost airline industry, where flights have extremely short turnarounds on the ground. This allows maintenance to be carried out between flights rather than having to be delayed to the evening or weekend.
Jet2.com will be launching the lightweight seat this summer.
On the ground
inFINITE, by Zoeftig
Zoeftig wanted to create beamless seating that allowed airports to create their own length of seats in whatever configuration, by linking one seat to the next, and then providing a leg every four to five seats. In the two years during which it developed inFINITE, it created not only the anticipated end product, but also two new materials along the way.
The company wanted to do away with the issues of casting in aluminium or steel so, taking inspiration from the automotive industry and its high-tech and very heavily tooled processes, it created a fresh composite material.
For the arms, legs and chassis, Zoeftig worked with a raw material manufacturer to create a material with the strength and durability of aluminium, but one that could be moulded more quickly using injection moulding rather than gravity or die-cast moulding. It’s a self-coloured, compositeengineering metal-replacement material that can be produced in RAL or Pantone colours, and does not need painting or touch-ups.
Zoeftig also developed self- skinning polyurethane for the seat, in order to overcome the hardness traditionally associated with polyurethane seating that requires PVC or leather upholstery. With an increased flexibility, the material is almost sponge-like and gives way a little when a person sits down, abolishing the need for upholstery and making it easy to wipe clean.
T500, by OMK
Back in the early Eighties, OMK designed the original seats for Gatwick Airport, a line of seating called Transit. Looking to create its successor, Rodney Kinsman designed the T500 to minimise the number of components and create a minimal appearance better suited to today’s trends.
The beam is made from extruded aluminium, which connects to a single wishbone-like bracket that supports two identical seat and back panels. The final component is, of course, its legs. The seat and back panels are available in sheet steel with a new hard-wearing powder coating or injection-moulded, self-skinned polyurethane in any RAL color.
This simplified concept not only reduces manufacturing costs, but also offers advantages for airport maintenance when cleaning and changing the panels. The entire unit may be assembled in minutes using a single tool. The aluminium beam allows the panels to be positioned as a continuous bench of any length, or as individual spaced seats with intermediary arms or tables.
With comfort in mind, Kinsman rolled the top edges of the back and the front of the seat panels. This helps to eliminate accidental impact injuries as passengers struggle with luggage or jet lag as they sling an arm over the chair’s back in attempts to snooze, perhaps after a flight is cancelled.