The fields of art, design and architecture are often disputed to be similar and seen as divided entities. Ron Arad (1951 –), born in Tel Aviv to artist parents, presents an ever-challenging approach to these notions through his work. Arad’s particular style is one that shows an awareness of the versatility of the mediums he works with, from furniture and buildings to product design and digital art, the crossovers between disciplines is a key characteristic of Arad’s work. Ron Arad’s has worked with design as his foremost concept; art is a means of expression, just as creating an award-winning chair is a functional manifestation of aesthetic sensitivity. By working without being defined or constricted in particular modes of creation, Arad’s work offers an interesting offering to the world of visual cultures.
Ron Arad studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Art before traveling to London to study architecture at the Architectural Association in London, graduating in 1979. After working in an architectural firm for a while, Arad decided to open his own company with his current business partner, Caroline Thorman. The company was called One Off, created in 1981 and later he established his own firm: Ron Arad Associates architecture and design practice. His work continually challenged the norms of each discipline, placing him at the frontlines of design thinkers. His particular interest in re-creating form and experimenting with metals, plastics and upcycled goods has defined his unique style. In 2011, Arad was awarded the London Design Week Medal for design excellence and named a Royal Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2013. He continues to work privately on commissions but has items in production with numerous leading companies. Arad is regularly exhibited at the MoMA and has various public sculpture works around the world, from Jerusalem to Korea.
Ron Arad, Tom Vak Chair (1999) H: 76 W: 65 D: 58 cm, chromed steel and plastic, Vitra Switzerland
Ron Arad created the Tom Vak Chair, when he was invited to create a public sculpture piece in 1997 for a furniture fair that was taking place in Milan. The piece was a tower of sixty-seven chairs, stacked high to create the Domus Tower. The chairs used were designed with specific chemicals added to the plastic so that the plastic would be flexible and long lasting. The grooves of the seat are a technological innovation that allows it to be made from one continuous piece of plastic. Tom Vack is a photographer and friend of Arad’s and the chairs were named after him when they were officially introduced in 1999. Greatly inspired by the Eames RAR Rocker, the molded plastic shape of the Tom Vac Chair shows an appreciation of curves and comfortable seating. The design of the chairs has been a testament to Arad’s versatility and success as a creator. It can be used in many different environments. In the 2014 Clerkenwell Design Week, 20 designers were asked to use the chair as a basis for reinvention that would celebrate 15 years of the Tom Vac Chair.