NO-CHAIR-DESIGN: News from the Swingers Club for Mature Chairs.

Ore.e Ref.  and Turntable joined ranks to promote urban farming and sustainable design in mid Pasila, Finland. On a cold weekend some 12 persons attended the “Swingers Club for Mature Chairs” – workshop during which people where guided how to fix worn chairs and some basic handicraft techniques like chiseling and sawing. The group succeeded in building seven tables, ten benches and some five Adirondack Chairs. The design of the Adirondack Chairs was based on models used in Chair-bombing actions (initiated by do-tank-brooklyn) in NY. The workshop was hosted at a greenhouse build by Dodo ry’s, Kääntöpöytä crew. The greenhouse opened for audiences this weekend.

Turntable, the urban farming center of Helsinki is run by Dodo and they have begun to convert the old railway infrastructure of Pasila into an active community driven urban farming test lab. Alongside farming experiments and upcoming gardening workshops, the place has a cafeteria which opens in a couple of weeks. It will serve vegetarian dishes made from food farmed in the Pasila district. Like Prinzessinnengärten in Berlin. The “Swingers Club..” workshop was initiated, produced and co-run by Turntable active, designer-artist Päivi Raivio and aided by other members of the Turntable team. Special thanks to Kirmo for feeding the workers.

Ore.e Ref’s, NO-CHAIR-DESIGN Challenge team  (Which in this case means me, as Jesse was at a class reunion in Turku) was invited to run the practical part of the workshop:

  • To teach people how to repair stuff and expand awareness on crafts.
  • To teach how to use power-tools and special tools (like dozuki saws and planers)
  • To give some insight on wood as material (joinery)
  • To oversee that people didn’t get hurt when using circular saws..

The tasks the attendees where engaged in where pretty complicated for starters. Some where compiling stuff using big screws for the first time and others had their first go at chiseling. I’m happy to say that the workshop succeeded in it’s targets. People had a fun time (despite the +3 Celsius temperatures on the first day) and learned something practical.

The furniture we made during the week-end is intended to become the infrastructure of upcoming cafeteria. People tagged the benches, tables and chairs they made with their names. When they visit the cafeteria they will have the possibility to dine using furniture they made them selfs! Like with the tactical urbanism movement of Chair-bombing this was a process of building a community – by re-imagining and modifying salvaged pieces of city infrastructure. Junk wood was converted into permanent furniture with labor and these objects are likely to have a positive effect on the local community. There are designer studios, indoor pétanque arenas, festivity spaces for rent etc. in the same premises as the Turntable Urban Farming Center. Unlike with graffiti – which is simply beautiful, furniture like this is useful and hence acceptable for very different kinds of audiences. The boys at the pétanque arena already showed interest spending some time at the table.

As the furniture is tagged by their makers; they will possibly be treated more respectably and fixed autonomously by the community if they happen to break. Identifying the makers protects the objects from vandalism. Sustainable design logic.. Also the bench design is beautiful which will ultimately help it to last longer. People enjoy maintaining beautiful stuff. The design was copied from an old bench found on the site. This also gives the furniture an interesting story. It’s areal design – Possibly the beginning of a Pasila spesfic style of woodworking. The tables mimic the same look and structural solutions. The doors used as table tops where found at a nearby renovation site.

All of the wood was junk wood collected by Kääntöpöytä crew from nearby construction sites.. The wood was dirty, wet and partly rotten (used as support when making concrete structures) and people possibly didn’t get the best idea on how to really work with wood. Chiseling dry wood is much more accurate the chipping junks of wet wood. There are surely some maintenance tasks ahead once the wood dries and the screws start popping out. The wood for the benches was dried for a month in advance but the table legs where as wet as.. well as wet wood can be.  Possibly the most rewarding part of the workshop was teaching people how to use power-tools like angle grinders, jigsaws and hand-held circular saws. People seemed empowered after finding the courage to use these tools.

The event was also interesting as it was an operation where a project (TURNTABLE) supported by the World Design Capital Helsinki venture and a project supported by Alternative Design Capital group  (NO-CHAIR-DESIGN) where working side-by-side in hopes of transforming the city to a jollier space.

Thank you very much for attending and please come again!

A community is needed to run a farm and a farm to run a community – To eat they need a big table.

Do you recognize the designer on the left? Well if you have been following up on the NO-CHAIR-DESIGN Campaign you ought to! And the girl on the right? She’s in the game! And below here is me boasting about after a full work weekend.

Last photo by: Kirmo Kivelä /

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