We’re always moving
Jul 2, 2012
Edward Barber, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark

Tipton is a small town in the West Midlands in the UK. This is the home of the first school to implement “RSA Opening Minds”, a cutting-edge educational model in the UK. And a new curriculum requires new spaces (the building was designed by architectural firm John McAslan) and of course new furnishings. In 2008, the planners turned to designer duo Barber Osgerby for help with this particular aspect of the project. Vitra has been manufacturing the chair “Tip Ton” ever since and it is now even in use at Munich’s University of Applied Arts, to name but one example.

Even the very first functional models for “Tip Ton” boasted this forward-tilt action, supported by a cantilever frame or arched wooden elements beneath the base. In the final version only the front section of the floor runners is angled upwards, which causes the seat to tip forward about 9 degrees. If the user leans forward while sitting on the chair at a table, reading or writing, this new posture straightens the pelvis and spine, improves circulation and concentration span. When it comes to office chairs, this connection has been recognized for quite some time now and integrated ergonomically into their design. With the chair “Tip Ton”, made of solid plastic, this standard has now found its way into the area of everyday furniture.

Nina Reetzke met Edward Barber and put three questions to the designer on dynamics, statics, and his favorite type of movement.

Nina Reetzke: In relation to “Tip Ton” – is it you or Jay Osgerby who has ants in their pants?

Edward Barber: Both of us. We never sit still. We are always moving. Our minds are racing all the time. And we are always traveling too, always on a plane, always on a train, always. There are so many ideas, projects, meetings and so on. Our entire lives consist in constant “fidgeting”.

Do static objects get on your nerves?

Barber: I like things to be peaceful. My favorite thing is the sea. And that never stops. I like things that move gently, like waves or trees in the wind. They’re very calming, very beautiful to look at; it gives you some time to just let go. Natural processes – as seen in plants, trees, water and clouds – have a calming influence on our own prescribed motions. This means going with the dynamics that already exist.

What is your favorite type of movement?

Barber: Swimming, sailing or scuba diving. Anything to do with water…

Edward Barber, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
”Tip Ton” is available in eight colors, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
The chair can tilt forward from the normal position, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
Presentation in the Vitra showroom in Frankfurt am Main, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
“Tip Ton“ was originally developed for schools, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
Presentation by Edward Barber, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
School-boy with chair (left) and Rolf Fehlbaum with early model of the “Tip Ton“ (right), photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
Edward Barber shows first drawings of the “Tip Ton“, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
Functional model with tilt-movement, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
Tool for production, photo © Nina Reetzke, Stylepark
“Tip Ton“ at the Technischen Universität München, photo © Eduardo Perez, Vitra
Project-based learning, photo © Eduardo Perez, Vitra
Terrace with view on Munich, photo © Eduardo Perez, Vitra
Film by Vitra