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Chair: Rethinking Body Culture And Design Paperback – Jan 18 2000

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Jan. 18 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393319555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393319552
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #274,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"A fascinating and original book...Of special interest to anyone professionally involved with backs and posture, but a book from which we can all benefit." -- Scientific & Medical Network

"As a trained Alexander Technique teacher and a Professor of Architecture at Berkeley, [Cranz] is well placed to consider the requirements we place on our furniture and its ability to fulfil them...[a] well-argued critique of chair design and the ways in which we sit." -- Journal of Design History

"This is an interesting book charting the influences, historical, social and ergonomic, on the design and evolution of the chair, from its primitive beginnings to the current day...a fascinating read." -- The Architectural Review

Galen Cranz has written a provocative book. Pull up a comfortable chair--if you can find one--and read it. -- Witold Rybczynski

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3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Galen Cranz on "The Chair"
1998, 253 pp.
WW Norton & Company
ISBN 0-393-04655-9
This book has interesting content on seating and sitting. Having once spent my vacation scouring Europe's museums for the earliest representation of a chair (earliest I could find was 1570), I looked forward to opening its covers.
Dr. Cranz teaches Environmental Design at the UC Berkeley Architecture Dept. Not surprisingly, she cuts a wide swath on seating, spanning history, sociology, industrial design, architecture, ergonomics, and holistic body/mind approaches - particularly the Alexander technique.
Parts of her book are engrossing. In particular, her historical perspective of how chair design has evolved historically [if accurate] may be unmatched. Her discussion of the holistic aspects of posture is also interesting.
That said, this book is not noteworthy for the caliber of its review of the ergonomics research on sitting postures and seating. Much of it is plain hogwash.
Throughout the book she refers to us as "ergonomicists" [should be "ergonomists"] and claims the discipline is derived from the Greek "ergon" and "omics" [should be "nomos" (laws)].

It is sometimes painful to read her sweeping generalizations. Dr. Cranz writes that ergonomic researchers "have concluded that the workstation should be an indication of the worker's status" (p. 55) . . . and "status differences have to be maintained, ergonomicists say" (p. 56), citing as evidence two office planning guides written by and for architects that fail to mention ergonomists.
She misrepresents research, as when she castigates Dr.
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Format: Paperback
How many of us are aware of the furniture we use in our everyday lives? These are things we feel, touch and see everyday. Yet they are always in the back of our subconcious, we never really notice them, or realise how these pieces of furniture affect us physically, as well as psychologically.
"The Chair" makes us look at the ordinary chair as something beyond a piece of furniture and as a symbol of wealth, status, honor, culture and comfort. In its own way, it shapes our everyday life and things related to it.
The author traces the origins of the chair through human history and how it changed and evolved through the ages. Going deep into the issue of chair design, the author tears commonly held views about comfort into shreds and illustrates how these "comfortable" chairs actually harm the human body. After taking a good look at ergonomics, Cranz talks about the body's conciousness and how it is related to the sitting posture. With the help of somatics and the Alexander technique, she says we can improve the ways in which we sit and improve our comfort.
What captured my attention the most was the manner in which this opens up the mind to different psychological and physical effects that a commonplace object like the chair can have on human beings and how we can improve our daily lives by thinking about these issues.
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Format: Paperback
It is an easy reading and houmorous book. It deals with many aspects of sitting and seats, including aesthetics, style, ergonomics and as a status symbol. I beleive the knowledge presented in this book represents decades of dedicated reseach on this subject by the author. It also enlightens one to realize that a seat is one part of the story and the way one sits is the other part: To ensure the well being of a sitting human organism we have to address both parts. In summary, it is a pleasure to read this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa52bf5a0) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
78 of 89 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa64a889c) out of 5 stars My review for the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society magazine Ergonomics in Design March 24 2004
By Rani Lueder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Galen Cranz on "The Chair"
Reviewed by Rani Lueder, CPE

This book is about seating and sitting. Having once spent my vacation scouring Europe's museums for the earliest representation of a chair (earliest I could find was 1570), I looked forward to opening its covers.

Dr. Cranz teaches Environmental Design at the UC Berkeley Architecture Dept. Not surprisingly, she cuts a wide swath on seating, spanning history, sociology, industrial design, architecture, ergonomics, and holistic body/mind approaches - particularly the Alexander technique.

Parts of her book are engrossing. In particular, her historical perspective of how chair design has evolved historically [if it is accurate] may be unmatched. Her discussion of the holistic aspects of posture is also interesting.

That said, this book is NOT noteworthy for its review of the ergonomics research on sitting postures and seating. Much of it is plain hogwash.

Throughout the book she refers to us as "ergonomicists" [should be "ergonomists"] and claims the discipline is derived from the Greek "ergon" and "omics" [should be "nomos" (laws)].

It is sometimes painful to read her sweeping generalizations. Dr. Cranz writes that ergonomic researchers "have concluded that the workstation should be an indication of the worker's status" (p. 55) . . . and "status differences have to be maintained, ergonomicists say" (p. 56), citing as evidence two office planning guides written by and for architects that fail to mention ergonomics or ergonomists anywhere in the books.

She misrepresents research, as when she castigates Dr. Etienne Grandjean's "poor reasoning" in Fitting the Task to the Man, writing "Amazingly, Grandjean starts with the slump as a goal" (p. 108). Drs. Grandjean et al's research actually documented computer users' self-selected postures. These researchers reported that rather than sitting upright, the computer users they observed tended to recline somewhat.

She cites findings from a small laboratory study by Drs. Bendix et al. (12 subjects for 2 hours in 3 back support conditions) as proof that lumbar supports on chair backrests are unequivocally unnecessary (p. 109) - but not the many studies that contradict. Minor assertions are meticulously cited, but questionable conclusions often are not sourced.

If you are looking for a thorough analysis of seated posture, this is not the book for you. It provides a unique and multidisciplinary perspective on the context of seating, but - please - take her review of the ergonomics research on sitting postures and seating design with a heavy dose of salt.
______

Rani Lueder, CPE has consulted in occupational and product design ergonomics for over 25 years. Her activities on seating include co-organizing the Second International Conference on Sitting Posture, held in Tokyo. Her second edited book "Hard Facts" is about sitting postures and seating (Taylor & Francis). She served on the seating subcommittee for the American National Standard ANSI BSR/HFES 100. She consulted in the research and design of over 350 lines of seating. Her newest edited book is "Ergonomics for Children: Designing products & places for toddlers to teens" (2008, Taylor & Francis).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa64a88f0) out of 5 stars Life changing April 15 2012
By Paolo & Francesca - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is more about the institution of sitting than a piece of furniture. I found especially interesting the author's explanation that a practice we take for granted as natural is really culturally derived. For the most part, only people from Western cultures sat in chairs, until those cultures came in contact with the West and adopted (or were forced to adopt) western practices. Chinese people traditionally sat on stools or benches, Africans sat on stools or squatted, Native Americans sat on the floor, the Japanese and South Asians sat on the floor. Other cultures make use of a variety of resting postures productively, but Western culture has insisted that sitting in a chair is the only posture in which to properly study, work, eat, and interact with people.
The author writes that children do not naturally sit in chairs. Young children much prefer sitting on the floor, crawl, kneel, stand, or any posture other than sitting in chairs. They have to be forced to sit in chairs before they become accustomed to it. And sitting in chairs is bad for their development and health.
Upon further reflection, I am coming to regard sitting in chairs in the workplace as a practice of oppression. Instead of acknowledging that human beings need a variety of postures in order to remain healthy and productive, we have forced this notion that only a certain number of postures are "professional." Women, especially, are limited in the kinds of postures that are considered acceptable. Forcing employees into one constricted posture all day is to regard them as machines instead of human beings. While those in the executive office are allowed more comfortable chairs with a greater range of motion, room in their office to stretch, or even a couch to lounge in. Being able to move has become a status symbol instead of a basic human right. In ancient times Kings and heads of households sat in chairs as a symbol of authority. Today, working in more comfortable positions is a luxury reserved for the elite. And for those who come from cultures in which chair sitting is not the norm, forget diversity in the workplace, conformity at all costs!
This book asks us to question this norm and challenge conventional wisdom. Office workers, STAND UP to defy the tyranny of the chair!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa64a8d28) out of 5 stars Great read and primer on chairs! Dec 3 2012
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The context of my reading this book is probably important to my review.

Through the [...] I am studying Chairs for the next two years. I'm doing this because I wanted to study something simple, tangible, and ubiquitous. At the beginning of my study, this description seemed to fit chairs. Currently I'm a couple of months into my study and very much have an amateur's perspective on the content and style of Cranz's work.

I really enjoyed reading the book. I particularly enjoyed the content surrounding the history of chairs. I found myself taking notes but I soon stopped because I was essentially copying what Cranz wrote, word for word. There is a lot of material referenced in there (extensive footnotes and bibliography) that I will look back on for my continued studies.

I read the 2nd half of the book considerably more quickly than I read the first part. I think this was A. because I was frustrated by how long it was taking me to take notes AND read the book, but B. I sensed that I would be reading considerably more about ergonomics and the implications of our chair use down the line, so I didn't want to spend too much time memorizing all of the little details of Cranz's opinion. I also got the sense that a lot of the 2nd half was laced with her opinion. That's fine as long as you accept it for what it is. Her opinion may very well be accurate, but I'll have to read a bunch more to verify.

In short, I thought this book was a nice, comprehensive, thought-provoking primer to learning more about chairs. It has certainly shaped the beginning of my studies in that I'm now interested both in "chairs as objects of design" and "chairs as potentially dangerous constructs". Anyone is welcome to follow me as I continue my study at [...]

One random thing: I enjoyed some of the random quotes at the beginnings of different chapters.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa64a8d10) out of 5 stars The Chair: A different perspective Oct. 1 2003
By Altaf Engineer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How many of us are aware of the furniture we use in our everyday lives? These are things we feel, touch and see everyday. Yet they are always in the back of our subconcious, we never really notice them, or realise how these pieces of furniture affect us physically, as well as psychologically.
"The Chair" makes us look at the ordinary chair as something beyond a piece of furniture and as a symbol of wealth, status, honor, culture and comfort. In its own way, it shapes our everyday life and things related to it.
The author traces the origins of the chair through human history and how it changed and evolved through the ages. Going deep into the issue of chair design, the author tears commonly held views about comfort into shreds and illustrates how these "comfortable" chairs actually harm the human body. After taking a good look at ergonomics, Cranz talks about the body's conciousness and how it is related to the sitting posture. With the help of somatics and the Alexander technique, she says we can improve the ways in which we sit and improve our comfort.
What captured my attention the most was the manner in which this opens up the mind to different psychological and physical effects that a commonplace object like the chair can have on human beings and how we can improve our daily lives by thinking about these issues.
HASH(0xa51990f0) out of 5 stars The historical section is truly great. It's very interesting to know how and why ... Aug. 11 2014
By Meh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating book. The historical section is truly great. It's very interesting to know how and why the chair mindset entered our collective brain. The design bits are quite interesting, as well. I find that my chair-sitting activities are far less unpleasant now. After that, things get a bit questionable. The later parts of the book offer ideas on how to free yourself from the horrors of chair sitting. At home, these suggestions work, but I know of ZERO industries where some of these ideas would work. Finding ways to avoid chairs is one thing, but there are limits. The one useful workplace application of the "chair free zone" philosophy is standing desks. I swear by the concept, and most folks who have used mine now have one in their office.

It may not be a perfect book, but there are many good points, so I highly recommend it. It certainly gets a person thinking about something they have probably never thought about before.


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