Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jean Prouve Inspired Stepladder

Jonathan Taylor is the designer for one of my current clients in San Francisco. They're having me create all kinds of interesting stuff, and I'm really enjoying working with them. Their latest request is for a rolling stepladder, based on this 1951 design from Jean Prouve. Although many of Jean Prouve's pieces have been mass produced, there doesn't seem to be any reproductions of the stepladder. Our version will differ in many ways. Not only do I want to avoid infringing on anyone else's stuff, but the overall dimensions of the original don't quite suit our client's needs.

Here is the original Jean Prouve Stepladder. After studying it carefully, I decided that it is a nearly perfect design. I rarely draw this conclusion when studying a piece, but when it's good, it's good. So where do we go from perfect? I'm not sure what the client will ultimately want, but I decided to head in a different direction, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

This is my favorite variation so far. It is somewhat inspired by Star Wars, but not really. One of the few things I thot I could actually improve was the shape of the grab rail. I think the original grab rail protrudes a little bit too far, so I held these rails a little closer to the piece. These images don't include wheels (I got lazy). Those who know me may find elements they might consider my "trademark" details, but I won't point them out.

This elevation view shows the streamlined grab rail. Both the grab rail, and the back of the stair treads hold a vertical line.

Here's the cool, and completely superfluous tread detail from the top. The top tread is rectangular, but as they go down, each tread gets deeper, with a graduating arc. The actual standing area remains the same all the way down, but you get this neat effect at the back, which reminds me of some kind of cooling fin, or exoskeleton.

I took the ladder to my Uncle George, who is the retired master fabricator of the Ganshorn family. He liked the original Prouve better than my variations. A practical man, he thot I was "some kind of jack ass" for trying to complicate things "with all those extra curves and corners!" It's hard to argue with practicality.

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