We make chairs.
In America. Often by hand.
Mostly from recycled materials.
But always to last.
Begin with what's left over. Turn it into what will last.
Pretty much our story.
It wasn't about style.
1006 Navy Chair. Created in 1944 for warships and
sailors. Now found in restaurants, hotels and offices.
Make something well, it can survive anything.
We started where we still are.
Hanover, Pennsylvania. In 1944, Wilton Carlyle Dinges creates the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company (Emeco) and employs local steel workers. World War II brings a big uptick in business. Specifically, a government commission for a particular kind of chair. A chair to withstand the American Navy.
Life on a ship is tough. Salt water. Salt air. The occasional torpedo blast. Survival will require a very resiliant material.
In 1944, salvaged aluminum is plentiful. Methods to make it highly resistant are not. Which leads to The Process. 77 steps that turn ordinary aluminum, extraordinarily strong.
1006 Navy Chair is born. Sturdy. Smart. Essentially the backbone and DNA of every chair Emeco will ever make. And what works for one demanding environment will eventually suit many, many others.
From ships to showrooms.
Gregg Buchbinder takes over. Notices that architects and designers are using Navy Chair in very modern ways. Meets Philippe Starck. Who has some ideas.
The problem with a nearly indestructible chair.
If you want to keep that chair and the company making it alive, you will need new uses.
Gregg sees the writing on the wall. He also sees orders from Ettore Sottsass, Giorgio Armani and a bold young French designer called Philippe Starck for a very large number of 1006 Navy chairs. That are destined for an eclectic, design-focused hotel in New York City. The Paramount.
Obviously, the Navy chair is getting some very un-Navy usage. Gregg pursues this. And initiates partnerships that will produce the company’s first new designs in more than 50 years.
Take a good thing. Make it shiny.
Starck loves the company and its craft. Works with Emeco on new ways to sit. The Hudson Chair in 2000, for the NYC Hudson Hotel, is the first collaboration. This opens doors. Frank Gehry, Norman Foster & Ettore Sottsass walk in.
Hudson is the very first Starck/Emeco collaboration.
Starck uses prime elements of the 1006 Navy. ”The styling is very pure. Very reductive. It’s not meant to be loud. If one can say of such a beautiful chair, it’s understated.” Less than a year later, Hudson is chosen for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Design minds take a seat.
Other designers take notice. Frank Gehry orders 125 Hudson rolling chairs for his studio. Gregg personally delivers them. Their meeting results in the "Superlight" chair.
Ettore Sottsass and Norman Foster also share Emeco’s goal of clean-lined, useful, intelligent chairs. Nine-0 by Sottsass is unveiled at Salone De Mobile 2008. Foster’s 20-06 is chosen for Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Collection the same year it launches.
Emeco is making waves the Navy chair could never imagine.
Onwards. Make endings, beginnings.
It started with scrap aluminum. There was no ‘green’. Recycled aluminum was simply the right material for the job. Now ’right material’ can be as varied as Coke bottles, industrial sweepings, used wood or energy efficient concrete.
Coca-Cola had a lot of discarded plastic bottles.
They approach us. “Let’s make something people won’t throw away.” Sensible on many fronts. But easy? No.
111 Navy requires 111 rPET Coke bottles, new science and a lot of hard work. But this partnership could rescue tons of scrap plastic from landfills. So...we’re in.
111 Navy succeeds in ways well beyond recycling. It inspires Emeco and many designers to think about original applications using reclaimed materials. Partnerships in this direction become the company focus. Subsequent work with Starck, Nendo, Grcic, Jasper Morrison give new breadth to Emeco’s initial purpose, the one that started it all, back in 1944.
Create for the environment the chairs will live in. Make them well. Make them to last.