The symbolic funeral was far more than a few youngsters revolting against the older, or opposing conservative styles. The young designers, Peter Opsvik, Svein Gusrud and Oddvin Rykken were armed with knowledge of ergonomics and a new understanding of the consequences for a human body spending better parts of the day sitting still. The Balans furniture was born. In short; the designers developed furniture first and foremost focusing on the users. And, they built it according to their belief; that human body wasn’t created for passivity. Sitting in balance strengthens the muscles in the back, shoulder, and neck and secures an optimum flow of oxygen. Instead of supporting the body like conventional furniture the Balans (balance in Norwegian) furniture lets the body support itself.
At the time Scandinavian Design was still celebrated all over the world for its beauty in the simple design, its bleak wood and leather and for its knock down furniture designed for economic transportation. Earlier in the century the functionalism had been made the symbol of and the style for modern times. This was the twenties and thirties. For the young rebels functionalism wasn’t really functional. In their understanding the functionalists had cleared out most of the unnecessary ornaments, the designs were made for industrial production, but they had done nothing to rethink the concept of sitting. The furniture was still made to support, and make room for man to sit in them. Therefore the Balans-designers saw functionalism as a shift of style, not a shift of paradigm. To challenge the concept of sitting they combined their knowledge of ergonomics, with the studies of how our active ancestors had been sitting. Opsvik particularly found the rider interesting. He is constantly in motion, forced by the horse’s movement and more active to follow and to manage the horse. Worshippers was another interesting group to study. To keep the congregation in church, or symbolizing different attitudes towards God, movement and change are necessary; standing up singing, kneeling down praying and sitting down listening during the service. The designers companion and partner in developing the consept; Hans Christian Mengshoel was particularly supporting the kneeling chair.
In our time most people are spending hours sitting down working – or playing. This makes inspiration from earlier times meaningful. The Balans designers developed furniture first and foremost focusing on the users and they built them according to their belief that human body wasn’t created for passivity. Sitting in balance strengthens the muscles in the back, shoulder, and neck and secures an optimum flow of oxygen. Instead of supporting the body like conventional furniture the Balans (balance in Norwegian) furniture lets the body support itself.
A lot of different products came out of the Balans concept. In particular three designers contributed to the flora of furniture products based on the concept; Peter Opsvik, Svein Gusrud and Oddvin Rykken. All three are still active designing furniture – both according to Balans philosophy and more conventional furniture. Three different manufacturers has played important roles in taking the Balans products to the markets internationally; HÅG (mostly Peter Opsviks designs), Varier (former STOKKE) (also mostly Peter Opsviks design) and Rybo (Oddvin Rykken design).
Peter Opsvik is the most celebrated Norwegian designer. His different pieces are still sold in millions around the world. His children’s chair, Tripp Trapp is so far sold in more than 6 million examples. Peter Opsvik also practices music playing jazz on his saxophone in a Norwegian Jazz band and he is working as a free artist painting and making sculptural pieces – which some of them looks a lot like furniture.
Today there are mainly two manufacturers working to develop the concept further; HÅG and Variér. HÅG is the maker of office chairs using the principles in many of the products in their collection. HÅG Capisco is the model with the most obvious inspiration from the rider. One sits with ones legs spread and the angles of both the hip and the knees are very similar to the rider. The design of the back cushion makes it possible to vary the sitting position from upright position like a conventional chair to balanced sitting like the rest of the Balans products.
FOTO: Balans Easy, design Oddvin Rykken by manufacturer RYBO
The archetype Balans chair is the Balans Variabel, design Peter Opsvik by manufacturer Variér and the Balans Easy, design Oddvin Rykken by manufacturer RYBO. The Balans Variabel, one sitting pillow, two knee pads and a c-shaped mow makes the chair. The Balans Easy, one sitting pillow and one adjustable knee cushion for individual accurate adaptation to small and tall , makes the chair. The form follows the function. Nothing extra needed, besides the balanced sitting. The body supports itself in balance and the need for variation is made possible by the mow. The motion stimulates and the result is strengthened body instead of supported sitting.