Most lecture halls are filled with unfailingly clunky fold-up chairs that leave shins and knees bruised as you walk through the narrow rows. The Ziba Jumpseat is, in comparison, a marvel in design: sleek, clean, unbelievably thin, it almost doesn’t resemble a chair at first glance.

The entire thing folds down to a mere four inches, and can be removed so for a multi-functional event space, but don’t be fooled by its lightweight appearance– each seat can hold up to 600 pounds, and if over-stressed, will simply bend and stretch rather than snap. And if we want to discuss simplicity in manufacturing this wonder, the structure of the chair is made with only two materials (plywood and sheet steel) and is covered with a high density foam cushion that is removable for washing.

From the Ziba website:

A series of plywood slats cut at a slight angle give the seat a graceful curve when compressed, and alternating recesses at the edges keep fingers from getting caught. A sheet of spring steel, so thin it almost vanishes, works with the plywood to support up to 600 lbs. If overloaded, it bends and stretches instead of snapping, making it far safer than a folding chair. The high-density foam cushion provides seated comfort, yet allows the entire seat to fold to a flat 4” slab, keeping walkways passable for audience members, and taking up astonishingly little space when stacked for storage.

In use, the Jumpseat is a delightful thing. First time users tend to grasp the thin, unassuming plane of wood and foam, bending it back and forth a few times, uncertain if this is actually a place to sit. Then a sense of wonder sets in as they recognize its unique mechanism, and slowly extend it all the way down. The mundane act of sitting transforms into a slightly magical experience, more like levitation or bouncing on a diving board, that elicits sighs and broad smiles. It’s a rare thing to see in an auditorium.

Most people probably don’t even look at auditorium seating twice– we often assume that the minor daily inconveniences are irrelevant to design, or simply cannot be designed better (after all, if every auditorium is filled with clunky seats, perhaps that is the best solution possible! So we ignore it.)

By taking apart the inconveniences that have been designed into the seat and rethinking the necessary aspects of the object (do we need 7 inch foam cushions, if a 2 inch substitute gives you the same effect?) the designers have made the creation of the Jumpseat a design process that we all should emulate. Love.

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