Variable™ is an instantly recognizable design icon. First introduced at the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in Copenhagen in 1979, Variable™ was one of the first prototypes derived from the balans concept. As its name suggests, the chair allows for variation between different positions. Its curved runners allow for gentle rocking motions while a tilted seat enables an open hip angle. The two cushions beneath the seat can be used to rest your shins, one foot, both or neither by placing your feet on the ground. You can also turn around or sit sideways if you so please. The chair is designed as an open construction, free of mechanical adjustment parts. It is lightweight and can easily be moved around. Variable™ is intended for use by standard height tables. Variable™ is available in a natural or black finish and a wide range of upholstery fabrics and colors. The wooden components are made from layers of beech and ash veneer.
Peter Opsvik is a Norwegian industrial designer born in 1939, trained at the Bergen College of Applied Art and the Norwegian State College of Applied Art in Oslo. Opsvik has worked as a freelance industrial designer since 1970, and currently has his own design studio in Oslo, where he works with seven colleagues focusing on product design as a mean for solving real-life problems. Throughout his career, Opsvik has attempted to overcome our stereotypical sitting habits with his unconventional seating solutions. With a playful and human starting point, his work is a display of how norms of sitting nicely and sitting still can be broken.
At the very beginning of 1976 Hans Christian Mengshoel (1946) initiated a study that set out to answer how we could sit in more balanced and ergonomic ways. Through observation and research, Mengshoel found that a seat which was tilted slightly forward, encouraged a natural posture which provided greater mobility and relieved unwanted pressure while seated. The idea of shin support was introduced to keep the user from sliding off the seat while simultaneously maintaining an open hip angle. With this, Mengshoel initiated the concept of the kneeling posture in Norway and set the mark for a truly experimental time in Norwegian design history.
Mengshoel invited designers Oddvin Rykken, Peter Opsvik and Svein Gusrud to design products based on the novel balans concept. The collaboration resulted in several experimental designs, where stereotypical views of sitting and seating where abandoned. A collection of balans prototypes were displayed at the 1979 Scandinavian Furniture Fair in Copenhagen, where they received significant attention. In 1984 the three designers and Mengshoel were awarded the Jacob Prize, the highest recognition granted to designers, architects and artists in Norway, for their original contributions.