Nowadays, the first step he takes at the start of a new project is looking at the market, seeing new sides to culture and how people’s behaviour is evolving,” he says. Hold, Prestwich’s latest design for Modus, is a multipurpose side chair perfectly suited to cafes, restaurants, meeting rooms or areas for concentrated work. Prestwich observed how people interact in these types of environments to gain inspiration: You’re changing your position more as people come to greet you and you collaborate with others,” he says. “The seating also needs to be able to provide the appropriate support.“ Prestwich then took this initial idea to Modus and the process really began in earnest. “Together we discussed the materials and we agreed the most appropriate was pressed plywood,” he says. And so the beginnings of Hold were born and after coming up with some sketches, it was time to hit the workshop. Prestwich actually modelled the chair himself using timber frames, which were layered up with fi breglass to create an initial model of the shell. “This 1:1 development is invaluable,” he explains. “It gives a real human scale to the process.” This model was then 3D scanned to create a three dimensional file which was tweaked until it was absolutely right. A bag press was used to vacuum press a plywood shell. Then it was a case of painstakingly cutting and recutting the shape until the profile was perfect.
One of the final parts of the process involved creating the aluminium tool which would be used to press the plywood shells in production. While we cut the fi rst shells by hand using a 1:1 drawing, in production this will be done using a CNC machine,” Prestwich says. The chair’s base has three options, each one manufactured in a diff erent way and each serving a diff erent purpose. Prestwich was again extremely hands-on in the production of the aluminium base. After drawing the initial design, he modelled it in foam to make sure the proportions were just right. A team of skilled engineers took over from there. They drew the base and ensured it would perform well in aluminium. Once the three dimensional model came back from the engineers, a process of rapid prototyping began from which sand castings were created to check the design was strong enough before a die cast gravity tool was produced. This tool is essential to repeatedly produce complex metal parts with a high degree of accuracy.
The end result should suggest movement,” says Prestwich, who admits making the chair was a challenge but the end result was well worth the effort. This ability to successfully collaborate with a manufacturer in the design process did not come out of nowhere and Prestwich is keen to stress the value of learning fi rst-hand from a highly respected designer before striking out on one’s own. For his part Prestwich spent six years working with German designer Burkhard Vogtherr in France.
Hold is not the only product Prestwich has designed for Modus that will be launched in September. He is also the mastermind behind the Connect table. “The company wanted something that was softer and warmer in appearance,” he says. “Something that wasn’t over-technical in appearance. When you go into a conference room, the idea was that it keeps a little bit of home.” This product also has a degree of flexibility whereby you can add lengths to suit your requirements. “The table should be free and easy,” he says. With the Connect table and particularly with the Hold chair, understanding the journey and the various stages of the development and manufacturing process becomes as much a part of appreciating the end result as seeing the finished product in the showroom.