Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08

Student: Adrian Eirin Madlener

Mentor: Jennifer Cross 


Title: Global Green Furniture


For my senior project I wanted to explore two interested of mine that I had not look into before. I decided to design and build a chair that used green material. I began with the design process and then built a prototype. I also build three maquettes of the three final chair designs I choose from using material with similar properties. I was faced with a lot of challenges along the way but learned from each of them. I based my design on ergonomic standards but also focused on adding whimsical details. My main goal was to be original and to complete something that I had never done before. The biggest lesson I learned was to consider material before designing a piece of furniture, as this was the reason for having to change my design a couple weeks away from completion. This has been one of the most rewardingly tangible projects in my life.


Three Final Designs: Maquettes


Three Final Designs: Drawings

Final Design: Chair

Final Design: Drawing

Gallery Installation

Artist Statement


The concept for this project was to design furniture both as a way to fulfill a personal requirement and to address a global issue. I decided to find a solution the biggest issue that we are currently and will be faced with even more in the future, climate change. Initially I had planed to make the chair transportable to further the idea of being socially conscious. I also planed that I would gain a lot of knowledge and skill in build and understanding the philosophy of furniture design. I anticipated a lot of research and room for my project to evolve.

I began with preliminary sketches considering originality and basic function. I came up with approximately 30 sketches and from these I selected 7 thinking about aesthetics and functionality. I made semi-finalized drawings and applied measurements. From these I selected 3, as my next elimination phases, this time considering how transportability could work in different ways. Finally I selected one design to build a life-sized prototype.

At the same time that I was going through my design process, I was doing research. First I looked at design trough history and currently. I began by selecting fifteen chairs that embodied everything I considered good design; aesthetics, functions, material, and the incorporation of concept that utilizes the chair to make a whit statement. For each of these I wrote a small analysis. With this a gained a stronger understanding of design and began seeing that a designer makes his mark being creating their first chair. Next I looked at two movements that both reflected my new philosophy. Art Nouveau, which balances aesthetics and function successfully, and the Studio Furniture Movement, which emphasizes furniture, were both influential to my research.

I also researched ergonomics and looked at few different texts published that discus furniture design. With ergonomics, I gained practical knowledge about the science in general and how it applies to designing a chair. Ergonomic standards take into account the general measurements that are applicable to all surfaces of a chair but also incorporate weight support and comfort. With the article I read I was able to see how furniture is talk about and what is judged.

After I began considering material and wasnt able to use Plyboo, I had to reconsider my final design. I redefined my goals and decided that transportability was no longer important. Because of this changed I realized that it is important to consider your materials before you go through a design process. My new design maintained the integrity of the material.

With this new design and the last two of my 3 selected designs, I began building models. Using a 1:8 scale, I used balsa and basswood, staying green. This was the most challenging process to date, since it was the first time I had designed beyond 2D. My biggest challenge was to bend the wood, I found a method of ribbing that proved to be successful. Being neat and accurate was also difficult but in the end I had three presentable models that help me understand my design both aesthetically and functionally.

Along with my models, I made three drawings that included my original final design. These were demonstrations of my new drawings skills and also showed my consideration for detail and technique.

Next, I began my construction phases. Though it was the shortest, it was the most challenging process in my project.  I began building the chair using the bamboo I had cut for both the long House and the neighboring property. The design I had altered from the second final design required that I would tie up a bunch of bamboo in one bundle. This proved to be an irresolvable technical challenge also due to the material used to tie it. After this I decided that I would try a different design that incorporated a concept. I came up with a grid design that utilizes bundles but yet again this proved to be both aesthetically and functional unsuccessful. Finally I decided to return to my completely original second design and create a curtain of bamboo on three levels that would support a seat that in turn would create tension for stability. Stability was my biggest challenge in terms of making the chair functional in my past two attempts. I made the seat out of recycled cardboard and used flour and water as an adhesive to connect the different layers. This worked and made for a much more attractive look. Along with the structure working I incorporated the knowledge I had gained from tying bamboo together to make notches all on the same level and certain Japanese knots to make sure it stayed and was as tight as possible. The accuracy and cleanness of design proved to be a great asset in my final deign.

In conclusion, I realized that my attention to process, documented in my process book, and my openness to the evolution of project allowed me to learn and to have a successful final product.

Works Consulted

Aubry, F D. Musee Horta. Brussels: Ludion, 1990.

Aubry, Francoise. Art Nouveau in Brussels. Brussels: Ouo Vadis, 2005.

"Bamboo Plywood." Calibamboo. Viewed 5 Oct. 2007. <>

"Best of the Year Award." Interior Design. July 2006.

Charlotte, Fiell, and Fiell Peter. 1000 Chairs. Kln: Taschen, 2005.

"DeMystifying All Those Chair Adjustability Options." Office-Ergo.Com. Viewed 11 Nov. 2007. <>.

"Green Building Supplies." Bettencourtwood. Viewed 15 Oct. 2007. <>.

 Josef Hoffmann Designs. Munich: Prestel, 1992.

"Le Design Outil De La Performance." Intramuros Apr. 2007.

"Mechanical Properties of Bamboo." Viewed 20 Dec. 2007. <

 "P&E Archives." Pritman & Eames. Viewed 23 Oct. 2007. <>.

Site. Viewed 30 Oct. 2007. <>

Spoon. London: Phaidon, 2002.

Stack, Jim. Design Your Own Furniture. 2002.

"Studio Craft Artist." David Ebner. Viewed 06 Dec. 2007. <>.

"Why Bamboo?" Viewed 10 Dec. 2008. <>.

 "Why Organic Wool." Eco-Terric. 2007. Viewed 23 Nov. 2008. <>.

"Wool Bamboo." Patternworks. <>.

Community Member  (Outside Consultant)

My outside consultant, Gordian Raacke is the executive director of RELI (Renewable Energy Long Island). Prior to this position, Gordian was a lawyer, gaining a training that is useful today. The son of a well know German industrial designer, he studied engineering. He has a lot of experience in carpentry and in building furniture. His efforts at RELI promote the use of green energy on long Island, including the alternative energy sources of wind and solar power. His own home is completely self stuffiest, using solar panels and stone floors that capture heat in the winter and that cools during the summer.

His assistance with this project proved to be a great asset, as he helped me better understand the materials I was working with. Together we developed the initial idea for the revised final design.