When we first came across Spanish designer Máximo Riera’s Rhino Chair in 2011, we were blown away by its incredible likeness to the endangered animal. Featuring a surprisingly comfortable-looking throne that merges with the upper half of the rhino’s body, it was the second sculptural design added to Riera’s Animal Chair Collection—the first being the equally-majestic Octopus Chair. Since then, the limited edition series has grown into a mixed herd of animal-shaped chair designs, including an Elephant Chair, a Walrus Chaise Longue, and even a Toad Sofa.
Riera reveals to My Modern Met, “This collection pays homage to these animals and the whole animal kingdom, which inhabits our planet, as an attempt to reflect and capture the beauty of nature in each living thing.” Focusing on capturing the beauty of endangered species, the designer explains, “My intention is to bring the animal kingdom to the urban world, to create awareness in something we are all losing empathy with.” Riera achieves this by cleverly-merging his minimalist, baroque-style seating with textural surfaces that highlight each animal’s form.
Made from solid polyurethane and an internal metal frame, each handcrafted chair takes an average of 500 hours to design and produce. In order to render hyperreal designs that are biologically accurate, Riera and his team use 3D modeling software and cutting-edge engineering techniques. Every individual piece is made with a unique color code, meaning there is only one of each chair ever produced. This mirrors how rare the depicted animals really are in the wild, many of which are sadly dwindling in numbers.
We recently spoke with Riera to ask about the inspiration and processes behind his Animal Chair Collection. Read on for our exclusive interview.
When did you first begin making furniture?
For many years my artistic career was relegated to a secondary role due my professional life in the medical industry. After selling my company and taking professional retirement, I could concentrate on the creative work which has always been my true passion.
What led you to create your Animal Chair Collection?
I have tried to combine both of my biggest joys, nature, and art. This series pays homage to these animals and the whole animal kingdom, which inhabits our planet, as an attempt to reflect and capture the beauty of nature in each living thing.
The inspiration stems from my life experiences, places that I have been and people that I have met. Nature has been a constant in my life. From time to time, I have the necessity of being surrounded by wildlife, which is the reason why I have always lived somewhere near the sea or the countryside. Sadly, not many people have had the chance to experience these animals first-hand, in nature, where they belong. The collection shows us what nature is capable of. It pays tribute to it by bringing those animals into urban life.
How do you choose which animals to pay homage to?
I normally focus on endangered species for my creations. I want to point out their uniqueness and how special these animals are; I hope we all realize this before is too late.
The Animal Chair Collection contains a powerful aura; it is almost like they come to life when you see them in person. They offer an interaction with the spectator through the spiritual form that they resemble. My intention is to bring the animal kingdom to the urban world, to create awareness of something we are all losing empathy with.
Can you describe your design and production process?
I am always trying new techniques and materials. From the brainstorming, I have the intention for creating something new and different. Art always has to break boundaries and being an artist nowadays means that you have to take risks in order to create something new/different – innovative. This is the key to make art evolve.
Regarding the Animal Chair Collection. It is a long process: it takes several months from the initial sketches to the final production process. Apart from the aesthetic and appearance of the pieces, we have to be sure that neither the structure nor the balance are compromised. This requires a lot of hours of engineering and calculations.
This is a limited edition project as each piece is produced in a non-repeatable color code, which results in very unique pieces.
Every piece is manufactured to order for each client, taking approximately 9 to 11 weeks, as they are handcrafted. It takes an average of 500 hours of work for each individual piece.