Within the auto industry, Audi is seen as an innovative driver of lightweight construction technology, and is dedicated to ensuring the efficient and sustainable use of resources and materials. Designers Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram remained true to these policies during the development of the R18 Ultra Chair, which is made from carbon fiber, carbon and high-strength sheet aluminum. In cooperation with the lightweight specialists at Audi, they pushed the materials to their limits. Their goal was to achieve maximum stability and comfort with minimum consumption of materials and as low a weight as possible.
Form follows future
With these aims in mind, a prototype of the chair was fitted with sensors and displayed at the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2012. Some 1,500 testers took the chance to trial the prototype in an interactive installation that emitted electronic signals in order to collect data. This technology is employed elsewhere in test labs at Audi for developing racing cars. “The technology was used for an item of furniture for the first time and allowed us to depict the forces at play in the chair”, explained designer Clemens Weisshaar. Based on the chair’s structural data, the designers were then able to optimize the prototype in collaboration with the engineers at the Audi Lightweight Construction Center. The various materials were employed at those locations that best suited their properties. The resulting chair tips the scales at just 2.2 kilograms (4.85 lbs) and embodies the principle behind Audi ultra: removing even the smallest amount of superfluous material by selecting materials intelligently and optimizing the components used. “This efficiency is the focus of our ultra lightweight construction principle”, confirmed Dr. Karl Durst, an engineer in fiber-reinforced composites at the Audi Lightweight Construction Center. Durst was involved in the project: “We combine the strengths of the materials in such a way that their weaknesses are no longer important”, he clarified.
As light as possible, as heavy as necessary
The final R18 Ultra Chair will be exhibited at Design Miami/ from December 5 to 9. During the show, the designers will host a special presentation to give visitors an insight into their work on the chair. On display will be sketches, material samples, models and prototypes from various stages of the development process as well as a robot used in the auto industry. A highlight will be the chair’s namesake, the R18 ultra racing car, which competed for Audi in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.
Design Miami/ is the most influential international design forum. The fair, which is paired with Art Basel – events are held in the USA in December and in Basel in June – has become the top meeting place for collectors, exhibitors and creative minds who engage with collectible design.
Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram have been referred to as “the vanguard of the next generation of digital designers” (FORM magazine) and “the poster boys of a new breed of designers” (International Herald Tribune). Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram’s works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The R18 ULTRA CHAIR is their second project for Audi after the widely acclaimed, award-winning installation OUTRACE on London’s Trafalgar Square in 2010.
Audi has been the exclusive automotive partner to Design Miami/ since 2006 and has a sense of obligation to design and technology in equal measure. In recent years, the carmaker has commissioned installations by international designers and architects such as Tom Dixon, Moritz Waldemeyer, Mirko Borsche and Bjarke Ingels. In so doing, the brand with the four rings continues to underline its commitment to promoting design culture and research.