October 2011

Arts & Letters

Design masterpiece

By Alan Saunders
© Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images
Marc Newson - ‘Qantas A380 Economy Seat’, 2008

Most designers like to design a chair or two in their career. Marc Newson began his with the famous Lockheed Lounge in 1986 and went on to create the quirky Embryo Chair a couple of years later, with which he thought he had achieved a discernible style. He’s done quite a few more but perhaps the most sat upon will be the economy seat he designed for the new Qantas A380 (and which won the 2009 Australian International Design Award of the Year). It’s a beautiful piece of work, very Newson in its retro-futurist look and curvaceous sculpted carbon-fibre backshell.

He designed the fabrics too, in hues of red, green and terracotta to represent the Australian landscape. The ergonomics are particularly inviting for the long-haul passenger: plenty of leg room and cushioning designed for side-sleep (the position passengers are most likely to adopt). The electronics include PC power, USB and internet ports, an in-seat phone and a wide-screen monitor. Newson has touched nearly every aspect of the A380 interior – from cabin layout to cutlery – so this beautiful seat contributes to a very cohesive design. It almost makes you want to spend 20 hours in the air.

—Alan Saunders

Alan Saunders
Alan Saunders was a writer, philosopher and broadcaster who contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Bulletin and other publications. He was a presenter on ABC Radio National for 25 years where his programs included The Philosopher’s Zone and By Design.

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