The industry calls it the monobloc chair. To everyone else it’s that cheap plastic chair, the squarish, one-piece, stackable thing that populates the lawns and gardens of the world, so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed.
It seems to be everywhere: inside a storeroom in Florida, outside the Uruguay Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and on a boat on the Zambezi River in Zambia, to mention just a few of the places the chair has been spotted, according to the Plastic Chair World Map. No one knows how many exist in their different versions or even who the original designer is, but they clearly number in the millions.
Most Singaporeans have sat on one before. Plastic stools support the bums of kopitiam goers around the city as they tuck into their wanton mee, nasi lemak or prata.
They come in all shades and shapes like the customers they serve, and one in particular is the design of Mr Chew Moh-Jin, a Singaporean industrial designer who unexpectedly created what is now an icon of Singapore’s food culture.
Picture a 30-centimetres wide circle bounded tightly by a square. Extend a third of the square to a height of 44-centimetres to create a leg. Repeat for the remaining three corners and you have an outline of the stool Mr Chew designed—a modern solution for a decades-old Singapore plastics manufacturer.