The task chair got its name for a reason. As the seat of choice for employees around the world, it juggles multiple asks at once: It must be comfortable yet supportive; stable yet flexible, all the while accommodating a rainbow of body shapes and sizes. Achieving that kind of adjustability has led to chairs with tangles of unsightly levers and buttons that even expert ergonomists have trouble navigating.
The Pacific, on the other hand, conspicuously lacks ergonomic accoutrements. Sleek and streamlined, there’s not a lever in sight, unless you happen to look under the seat where two plastic handles help raise and lower the chair. Look under there and you’ll also see the housing for an innovative hinge that automatically adjusts its resistance based on the weight of the chair’s occupant.
It’s the first task chair from British designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who designed it with simplicity in mind. “Office chairs have become overly expressive of functionality,” Osgerby says. “We simply wanted to make a beautiful piece of furniture—something that’s the antidote of the machine you usually sit on.”
When it comes to office chairs, though, simplicity is much more complicated than it seems. Take Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair, whose sinuous body has defined high-end office chair design for the last three decades. Made from a perforated elastomer, the Aeron’s shape contours to the body and provides a bouncy elasticity that feels simultaneously supportive and comfortable.
In comparison, the Pacific has a sophisticated heft. There are no plastics or perforations, and the slightly-bowed backrest dips below the seat to create a cleaner, sharper silhouette. The chair’s aluminum armrests jut out at 90 degrees, like miniature plane wings, and attach under the seat (rather than to the back, like most chairs) so that the person sitting can swing her legs to the side unrestricted. “It’s not a just-for-working desk,” Osgerby says.
The Pacific looks particularly handsome when compared to the insect-like shapes of most office chairs, but the real magic is in the mechanism. Barber and Osgerby abided by a reductive process when designing, consolidating the unnecessary doodads found on most task chairs into a simple self-adjusting system. According to the designers, the Pacific automatically adjusts to the weight of the person sitting in it. When a person sits in the chair, their weight applies pressure to a hinge inside a box under the seat, which in turns tightens the resistance on the back of the chair. The heavier you are, the more resistance the hinge applies. “It’s like a bike or car break,” Osgerby says.
Sitting in the the chair should feel comfortable, but firm, and the decluttered silhouette is meant to be calming. Whether or not you elicit that much pleasure from sitting in it at your desk is a whole other story. But considering an office chair cradles your body for at least eight hours a day, it’s comforting to know that someone is considering the details. Did we mention that it also comes in pink?