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HOW IT'S MADE - Lapella chair by Zaha Hadid

News International-French

3 Feb 2020

The Zaha Hadid architectural firm is world famous for its bold deconstructionist approach to urban spaces. The firm used composites to reinvent the CH07 lounge chair, a classic that was created in 1963 by Danish designer Hans J Wegner. Their new Lapella chair combines stone and carbon fibre to create sleek, clean lines.

Their new Lapella chair combines stone and carbon fibre to create sleek, clean lines (@Kris_Tamburello)

Their new Lapella chair combines stone and carbon fibre to create sleek, clean lines (@Kris_Tamburello)

Recreating everyday objects while introducing new functions or human engineering is a difficult challenge that designers face on a regular basis. The 1963 CH07 lounge chair was made from wood and fabric. The Lapella chair was designed for the NYIT School of Architecture and Design’s Stereotomy 2.0 and Digital Construction Tools event on 16-29 April 2018 in New York. "Lapella“ was the name they had given to the new chair, misunderstanding the Italien Word "La pelle“ for "skin“.

How it's made?
Compression vs tension

Stone is a material that behaves well under compression, but not under tension. For this reason, it is generally used for masonry work, or as cladding for façades. In order to use stone to replace the original laminated wood and upholstery fabric used for the CH07, the architects teamed up with the London design/engineering firm AKT-II and the University of Westminster to calculate the minimum thickness of stone that would be necessary to create the Lapella’s structure.

The redesigned Lapella chair at the April 2018 Stereotomy 2.0 and Digital Construction Tools event in New York

The redesigned Lapella chair at the April 2018 Stereotomy 2.0 and Digital Construction Tools event in New York

A stone sample was subjected to tensile tests in the University laboratory. By studying different degrees of tension, it was possible to map the compression and tensile forces in play so as to distribute the thickness of the stone over the different parts of the chair to ensure its strength. Using the same principle, the architects then determined the thickness of the carbon-fibre layer required to withstand the tensile loads on the Lapella chair.

According to Edoardo Tibuzzi, a structural engineer at AKT-II, they used the combination of two materials so that the stone would perform in compression and the carbon fibre would withstand the tension forces—allowing them to “carve out” much of the material and achieve a very thin stone profile.

Material composition

Lapella chair material composition (@Generelli SA)

Material composition of the Lapella chair (@Generelli SA)

Elegance and technicality
First, the palissandro stone was milled using CNC machinery, and then the carbon fibre was inserted in layers using a vacuum structural technique. The stone was then polished and cleaned. According to Zaha Hadid Architects, their patented manufacturing process harnesses the compressive properties of stone and the tensile properties of carbon fibre to achieve outstanding structural performance with an exceptionally thin, lightweight construction. The varying degrees of tension and compression from one part of the chair to another was what determined the thickness of the stone and of the carbon layer in any one area.

The carbon-fibre layer reinforces the chair’s capacity to withstand tensile loads.

The carbon-fibre layer reinforces the chair’s capacity to withstand tensile loads.

About Zaha Hadid:
Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid (31 October 1950 – 31 March 2016) was an Iraqi-British architect and the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.She received the UK’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011.

Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid
In 2012, she was made a Dame by Elizabeth II for services to architecture, and in 2015 she became the first and only woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Her major works include:the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympics, Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum in the US, the Guangzhou Opera House in China, and the Beijing Daxing International Airport, also in China.

Some of her awards have been presented posthumously, including the statuette for the 2017 Brit Awards. Several of her buildings were still under construction at the time of her death, including the Daxing airport and the Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar, a venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.