It was once said that all great designers, whether they design skyscrapers or artwork, challenge themselves to design the perfect chair: beautiful when seen, yet invisible when in use. I’m pretty sure I heard that on a podcast at some point. In any case, Columbia clearly didn’t recruit any “great designers” when considering which chairs they should use to populate the campus. Save a select few, all the chairs are wrong.
Take John Jay dining hall. The chairs are uncomfortable to sit in and take up so much room, from their thick handles to their round-seated design. This makes it tough to navigate around the dining hall; the spaces between chairs are so small you either have to squeeze between them, possibly spilling your food and invading the personal space of others, or take a lap around the entire dining hall, searching for an inch of space you can use to your advantage. Their thick design makes them durable, but bulky. It’s safe to say the chairs are wrong.
The study desks in Pupin have the opposite problem; they’re made out of a low-grade plastic, with a tiny piece of laminated wood to use as a desk. Besides blowing away in the wind, the biggest problem these chairs have is the unappealing tilt of the desks which, when combined with the smoothness of the “wood”, makes it unsafe to put anything on them lest it slide off seconds later. Their lightweight composition also causes the desk to swivel easily; more than once I’ve rested my elbow on the side of the desk, only to have it flap up and crash back down in the middle of someone saying something about Dante and capitalism or whatever. The poor quality makes these chair-desks unsubstantial and unusable. These chairs are definitely wrong.
The Butler chairs, as seen in the image above, combine the worst of both worlds: uncomfortable design and lightweight materials. After a long day pretending to be productive, my back always aches from the un-ergonomic backrest composed of wooden rods. More than once I’ve been tempted to smash the chair over my knee, which would probably take as much strength as pulling a tissue out of a tissue box. While the chairs may be right given the context (all students in Butler give off the appearance of quality with no structure underneath), they are unequivocally wrong.
Don’t even get me started on these Library Tycoon wannabees. What possible justification could you have for wanting chairs that tilt back a little bit, other than wanting to scare students half to death? My current theory is that in order to increase membership rates into the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, they stashed these chairs in cafés nearby to induce people into insanity. Then they gathered the chairs back up when they opened Columbia. No one has ever actually had the thought “Hm, you know what I’d love right now? If my stomach went from a solid to a plasma” while studying. Also, the softness of the cushions juxtaposes badly with the hardness of the wood. These chairs are wrong.
Do you have a least favorite chair? Yell at the person next to you about it or maybe put it in the comments.