Sweden’s acclaimed designer Monica Förster taps into one of her country’s most prized natural resources in the subtle gestures shown in her latest accomplishment, the Vika seating collection. This commission for Bernhardt Design marks her first major collaboration with an American company, subsequent to building a highly respected body of work for numerous leading European brands such as Cappellini and Poltrona Frau. In northern Sweden, braided rivers carve through the land creating an ever-changing landscape alive with motion. Förster brilliantly captures the beauty of this geographical phenomenon in the undulating shape of the Vika Chair, which debuted at the London Design Festival this past September..
Current technology played a significant role in the conceptualization and production of Vika. Förster initially modeled her design on the computer, and ultimately CAD files were used to produce three moulded parts that form the body of the chair. However, technology only served as bookends to the true creative process of hand-sculpting wood forms that led to the discovery of the precise lines and shapes needed to give the chair its desired sense of fluidity. Working with 35 individual segments of plywood, Förster and the product team were able to experiment with height, width, shape and ergonomics. “If we wanted to see how the piece would look ¼ inch wider, we would add a segment; or if we wanted to open up a curve, we would reshape three segments,” says Jerry Helling, president of Bernhardt Design. “This very human and low fidelity process of creating a living piece of sculpture ultimately produced a rapid prototype that was perfect the first time out.”
The beauty of the design rests on the movement of the exterior line as it loops around the chair. It was crucial to the success of the piece that it appears as effortless and spontaneous as it would in nature. “The fluency of the dramatic fold in the centre of the chair was the most critical element, and this was very difficult to refine in computer modeling or with wood forms,” says Förster. “To achieve the perfect line, I ultimately hand shaped a single copper wire.” Satisfied with the sculptural result, her hand- fashioned wire and wood forms were digitized back into the computer model to fabricate the final production molds. The process came full circle: what began on the computer ended on the computer, but not without the help of an artist’s hands.
Förster is internationally respected for her creativity and innovation. As a designer for Cappellini, Modus, Poltrona Frau, Swedese, De Padova, and Zero, Förster has been the recipient of numerous awards such as 2007 Elle Interior Designer of the Year; Designer of the Year, Sweden 2006 and 2007; Best Product 2005 Time Magazine; and Wallpaper Design Awards 2010.