The design of the Linz stool arose from two constraints: First, that it be feasible to allow anyone visiting the museum to walk away with one. Second, that it fit the manufacturing parameters. Local artist Helmuth Gsöllpointner introduced Feichtner to the owner of the 30-year-old Haidlmair factory, which had produced steel sculptures for Gsöllpointner but which normally develops injection molds for the production of plastic crates, pallets, and parts.

The Linz Stool by Thomas Feichtner

You don’t have to stare at Thomas Feichtner’s work for very long to detect a theme — facets and folds everywhere, on desk lamps, chairs, teapots, even a set of futuristic cutlery. Rather than imparting severity, though, the lines are a more artful alternative to minimalism: “I think things should work properly,” says the Austrian designer, “but do they really need to look like it?” To create his leather-upholstered Public armchair, for example, which is shaped like a canted square with an open back, Feichtner began with freeform sketches and then limited himself to manipulating it using only points and lines; for him, this design method represents a quiet subversion — using unfamiliar or out-of-context forms, like a hexagonal spoon, to suggest that our preconceptions of how objects “should” look are often needlessly limiting.

For his current “Linz Hocker” installation (hocker means “stool” in German), Feichtner flooded Austria’s State Gallery Linz with more than 1,000 grey plastic stools that take a traditional form — a flipped-over milk crate — and radically update it into something resembling a spaceship part. With the backing of Vitra and the help of a local factory, he was able to manufacture the stool quickly and inexpensively enough to allow for museumgoers to take one home with them, which has been gradually dismounting the show over its three-month duration. “The focus is not on giving something away but on the idea of the artificial democratization of design,” Feichtner writes in his artist’s statement. “Over the years this product may become a unique Linz specimen: Stools will appear again and again in apartments, shops, or studios. Some will change hands at the Linz flea markets. In the course of time the stool may not only circulate in Linz, but also become a messenger for design from Linz.” Here’s how he did it.

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