Why Sigmund Freud's Office Chair matters

You'll never guess how the father of psychoanalysis used to sit in this distinctive piece of furniture
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Sigmund Freud’s Office Chair (1930) by Felix Augenfeld and Karl Hofmann
Sigmund Freud’s Office Chair (1930) by Felix Augenfeld and Karl Hofmann


Sigmund Freud's contributions to medical science may be monumental, but when it came to his own posture, he was less than perfect. According to his daughter, Mathilde, Dr Freud liked to read in a very strange position: with his legs draped over one arm of his desk chair, his book held high and his neck unsupported.

Rather than alter the great doctor's habits, his daughter sought to accommodate them, and commissioned this chair from the Viennese architect and designer Felix Augenfeld in 1930. As we explain in our new book Chair: 500 Designs that Matter Augenfeld made this one-off piece of furniture with his partner Karl Hofmann, meeting Mathilde's brief by including armrests which could double as back rests. When Freud fled the Nazis the chair came with him, and is now on display at the Freud Museum in North London.

Much is made of Freud's famous couch, but his own chair is almost as intriguing. Despite its apparently utilitarian design, it's hard not to read more into its shape. Some see sculptural forms, similar to Henry Moore, while others can't help but anthropomorphise the inanimate object, picking out a distinctly human figure in its arms and backrest. 

 

Chair: 500 Designs that Matter

However, rather than concentrate on its appearance, we should consider what the chair let Freud achieve. The father of modern psychoanalysis managed to do so much at his desk by not sitting up straight that his odd desk chair serves as a reminder that while conformity has its place, sometimes a design is at its best when it accomodates the peculiarities that enable its user to reach greatness.

To find out more about this distinctive seat and 499 others order our book Chair: 500 Designs that Matter.


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