Exhibition on the .03 chair

15 Feb 2011

Today we are paying some attention to a person that never studied to be a designer but is considered to be the most important Belgian designer of the previous two decades. There is an exhibition on his .03 chair at Design Museum Gent until the end of this month. More about this famous chair after the jump.

Maarten Van Severen's .03

The .03 chair from Maarten Van Severen is a design icon of 20th-century. Chances are optimistic that even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you probably sat in one. You can find them in diverse places like McDonald's restaurants across Europe, Sint-Baaf's Cathedral and the University Library in Ghent or Centre Pompidou in Paris. His career was way too short unfortunately as he died of cancer at only 48 in 2005.

Maarten didn't want the chair as a piece of art; he wanted it to be in the world. He wanted his chair all over the place, You can put it where you want. It adapts very easily. It keeps its personality.

 — Kris Lenaerts of the Maarten Van Severen Foundation

The history of the .03 is shown by means of design drawings, correspondence, three-dimensional objects, statements and photos

Exhibition devoted to one single chair

Like with so many great designs there is a complete backstory to be told. The Exhibition on the .03 at the Design Museum in Ghent takes visitors through the stages of the chair's life, from the designer's original attempts to create "his chair, the chair" in his own workshop through to collaborations with design and manufacturing companies Top-Mouton (now Aiki) and Vitra. You can make that journey through photographs, filmed interviews, design sketches and letters, as well as many models of the chair itself. Luckily the designer kept all his material as he wanted researchers and new designers to be able to consult his archives. The objects themselves would act as a source of inspiration for future generations.

The .03 is now also available as a limited edition one in mint green

How do you build a chair like the .03

When you enter the exhibition, held downstairs at the Design Museum Ghent, you'll notice two very similar looking chairs. When you get closer and start inspecting you'll notice the differences: the angle of the back, the thickness of the legs. One is a chair produced by Van Severen in his workshop; the other is the Vitra version. The most striking contrast is only obvious when you sit in both chairs, namely that the Vitra chair uses a foam material that actually adapts to your body. Another key feature of this .03 chair is the way in which the back, seat and legs are all one fluid line.

Until 1999, when Vitra started producing the chair, mass-market chairs were essentially made up of three separate sections: a back, a seat and the legs. A key stage of its development was when Van Severen met Nick Top of Top-Mouton in the mid-1990s, and they agreed to work together to solve the designer's production difficulties. This way the designer didn't need to deal with practical problems such as late deliveries or product faults anymore. Maarten Van Severen considered a chair a complicated piece of furniture and he wanted it to be perfect.

The emergence of the .03 chair took more than a decade, from 1986, when Van Severen designed his first chair, through CN° II (or Chair Number 2) in 1992 to Vitra's mass-produced .03 chair in 1999. The exhibition on the .03 chair at Design Museum Gent continues until the end of February and you find the museum in the Jan Breydelstraat 5. Watch the movie below to get some more knowledge on the backstory of this famous designer and his .03 chair.

Limited edition one in MINT GREEN

The .03 is now also available as a limited edition one in mint green.


  1. 1 Erwin Heiser 15 Feb 2011

    Sad really that a talent as Van Severen isn’t honoured by a better maartenvanseveren.be website, it’s embarrassing really.

  2. 2 tim 15 Feb 2011

    Glad that his work is being valued again. He deserves a place among the Eameses and Jabobsens of this world.