This object is meant to be an exercise in generating compositional hierarchy with geometric forms. The goal was to create a book holder composed of four boards cut from a single five-foot plank.
I decided to take the challenge even further—I made a bookshelf for my sketchbook that also acts a chair for sitting on while sketching.
For the initial ideation phase, I started with drawings and 1/4-scale modeling. Wanting to explore as broadly as possible, I tried using different modeling materials such as paper and wire in addition to the traditional foamcore.
The main challenges I encountered while in my early exploration were how to separate the person and the book but also make it so the person could access the book. I thought about the main elements or a chair (back, seat, legs) and how they could be abstracted, as well as how a book could be incorporated into them as a important visual part of the composition.
The anatomy of my concept is comprised of a leg, a back, a seat, and a spine that supports all three elements and also acts as another leg. The book sides into a slot cut into the spine, and as such is directly behind the seated person.
My goal for the full-scale mockup was to figure out how to proportion the parts to ensure the best possible structural integrity and comfortable interaction. I also wanted to formulate a plan for constructing the final chair.
I spent time leaning up against the plank ad marking different places where my body made contact. This helped me visualize how to get the right scale and angle of the seat and back.
I also cut a jig to test different sizes for the groove that my sketchbook was meant to ft into. This ensured that the chair was tailored specifically to this book and that it wouldn’t fall out or get stuck in the back.
Some sketches I made that illustrate all the final dimensions of each component, as well as the places where the fasteners would be.
I marked out all the lines on a piece of foamcore before laminating several together to get the correct thickness. I then cut and assembled the pieces.
The completed full-scale model held the book straight and centered as intended. And while I couldn’t put my full weight onto it, I was still able to determine that the proportions and angle of the chair were comfortable.
Before I began fabrication, I did a set of detailed technical drawings outlining exactly how each piece was meant to be made. I accompanied these with an overall exploded view outlining how the pieces are meant to be assembled, as orthographic views of the assembled chair.
Below are some key moments from the fabrication process, which involved a wide variety of tools and machining processes. Challenging parts of the process involved cutting the inside of spine shape accurately, making joints and dados, and assembling the chair with the screws and walnut plugs.
The first steps were about getting the wood to be consistently flat and smooth. I jointed and planed the wood and then used an orbital sander to smooth it out.
Then came cutting and routing the edges to get the correct shape. The inside corners of the book groove had to be cut and sanded by hand, which was particularly tough.
Then came drilling the holes and making the counter-bores for the hidden screws. I also used the drill-press to make the walnut plugs.
Then came assembly. I screwed the pieces together and then glued in the plugs.
Finally came the final surface finishing. I cut the plugs down to be even with the boards and sanded all the surfaces by hand using different custom sanding blocks.
The final form is a simple composition that shelters the sketchbook, inviting a person to come and occupy the space in the front. The walnut plugs serve to add some visual complexity and focal points to the chair in a pleasing way, while also revealing clues as to how the form takes shape. The interaction of reaching back to remove or put back the sketchbook is one that feels comfortable, but must still be done thoughtfully. The form both protects the book and offers it to the sitter.