These coffin chairs illustrate work 'slavery'

The 'coffin chairs' creator reveals the realities of the workplace in an exclusive interview with IE.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The coffin chair is a grim representation of working life.
The coffin chair is a grim representation of working life.

Chairbox Design for IE

Conceptual coffin-shaped chairs mocking long hours at work have gone viral.

The designs are so intelligent they simply cannot be ignored. You’re sure to be impressed and a little uneasy after seeing the inventive conceptual chairs engineered in the style of coffins.

A UK-based designer going by the name of Chairbox Design posted them online on Behance in July and they are now starting to make the rounds on media outlets. We couldn’t help but be fascinated.

IE located the designer who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons and asked him a few questions.

IE: What inspired you to make these chairs?

Chairbox Design: While I was working on the standing desk project for a client I did research about sitting. There is a study that found that sitting six to eight hours a day increases your chances of dying. By design, humans weren't created to sit on chairs for eight hours a day.

The whole behavioral shift happened recently, and our bodies haven't adapted yet. Even if you exercise it's still not enough. Also, there is a law in the UK now that employers must provide standing desk options at their offices. The awareness is there, but it's not enough.

Another issue that I wanted to talk about in my work is exploitation. While we spend most of our time at work, we can't afford some basic things. The gap between rich and poor is growing exponentially. What's shocking is that it's widely accepted by society. It has become a norm that we spend our lives at work slowly killing ourselves and getting almost nothing out of it.

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The whole grind culture (long hours at work) is just wrong, it feels to me like voluntary slavery. We've been gaslit into thinking that this is life as it is supposed to be. We sit in those coffins and generate value for the stakeholders, but once the time has come they nail the lid and roll us to the corporate cemetery.

These coffin chairs illustrate work 'slavery'
The coffin chair in a board room.

The setting for the design was quite dark. It was another [COVID] lockdown in the UK, at that time. I was working from a barely furnished home, and I had to use a cheap eBay chair daily. It was quite a dark period in my life. I had to do work that I did not enjoy doing. I got divorced and everything seemed hopeless.

Some people mentioned that I used Magritte paintings as a reference but I did not see them before. It was just a pure reflection of my state. The first vision of the chair came to me when I was in my friend's living room lying on the floor with my legs on the couch. I thought that if I die in this pose they might have to bury me like that.

It would be so inconvenient to put me in a coffin. They probably would need a special coffin in this case. I told my friend about it and we laughed but after a couple of weeks I returned to that idea and explored it a bit more. Later I made a 3D model in CAD software, rendered it and posted it online.

How has been the response?

I think it resonates with people quite well and it seems that the pain that I was going through is very familiar to many. Most of the commenters took the satire quite well.

How difficult was it to engineer the chairs? Did you have to do a lot of research?

I did research coffin construction and wheeled chair base when I was doing CAD for the case. As for now, the chair is still not in production, I see it as an art object mainly.

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