Tom Dixon is a household name when it comes to design. The British designer literally ‘forged’ his career by tinkering in his workshop, experimenting with a host of industrial materials.
With his Pylon chair, produced in 1992, Tom tried countless times to reinforce the weak points of what appears to be a relatively fragile steel chair, composed of numerous triangular shapes. Often compared to the shape of electricity pylons, the Pylon chair is still produced by the original skilled metalworker who taught Dixon to weld at the start of his career in the mid-1980s. “The results make me believe more in the underlying structure of an object, rather than in their surfaces and leave me in awe of the structural engineer,” Tom says, as quoted in Switch Modern.
First produced by Cappellini, with the initial prototype in raw steel, the Pylon chair hit the market powder coated in a vibrant blue and bright orange. And in 2017, the chair was re-editioned by Dixon’s own company in royal blue and white. The three-millimetre steel rods ‘knit’ together to form a sculptural chair that appears like a sculpture. And in spite of its fragile appearance, it can easily take a person’s weight. As well as a chair that helped to shape Tom’s career, it’s also one of the first examples where furniture designers worked with CAD.
For architect Ian Moore, whose career goes back as far as Tom’s, the Pylon chair not only depicts his favourite colour, orange, one that still appears in his interiors today, it is also a reminder of his initial training as a structural engineer in New Zealand. “In my early career, I worked on electricity pylons, along with other things such as wind turbines. I see these forms as quite striking in the landscape,” Ian says, whose own aesthetic leans toward the minimal and slightly industrial.
Ian also appreciates Tom’s humour and how this is expressed in his work. “There’s that typical British humour, and skilful design brought together,” he adds. And of course, the idea of creating minimal and elegant structures can be regularly seen in Ian’s streamlined apartments and bespoke homes in Sydney.
While the electricity pylon is often seen as the inspiration for the Pylon chair, a book produced by Tom, suitably tiled Dixonary (published by Violette Editions) matches images that influenced key designs. In the case of the Pylon chair, the accompanying image is an X-ray of a scythe butterflyfish, highlighting the fish’s complex bone structure, as fine and delicate as the myriad of triangles that have been used to produce this future classic.
The Pylon chair can be used as a chair. However, given its price, it’s not surprising that it is often seen at the entrance to a home, creating a sense of welcome. And rather than placed next to other chairs, it is often used as a stand-alone piece in a bedroom or a living room, functioning as much as a sculpture as a cherished piece of furniture.
It’s certainly not the most comfortable chair, and there are many others that can be found for comfort. However, the Pylon chair remains not only a Future Classic and a masterful engineering feat but also an insight into the mind of one of the world’s leading designers.