Walter de’Silva is well known within the automotive industry. As head of design for the enormous Volkswagen Group, de’Silva oversees design for not only Volkswagen, but also Audi, Seat, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley.
Like many designers before him, de’Silva has also designed products outside of the automotive arena, such as the Leica M9 camera. He’s also worked for a fashion label in the mid-eighties before returning to head design at Alfa Romeo. Now he’s hoping his name will carry some weight in the industrial design sector, with his latest foray into furniture design yielding the ‘Luft’ armchair.
Created at the Audi Concept Design Studio in Munich in collaboration with Italian furniture-maker Poltrona Frau, the Luft armchair features a curved aluminum element — symbolizing Audi lightweight construction — said to exemplify its weightless appearance.
“The unique thing about this project is the fusion of Poltrona Frau’s invaluable handcrafting expertise with the research, the experimental approach and the conceptual methods of Audi design,” de’Silva said of the partnership with the Italian brand. His goal was to achieve the perfect balance between craftsmanship and high-tech whilst creating a place to unwind. “In the picture of a chair, I see order and discipline – an armchair. On the other hand, suggests precisely the relaxation that I’m longing for at the end of a long day of work.”
The designers kept this approach in mind when selecting the materials and when crafting the chair’s thoroughly functional design. An aluminum element traces the contour of the chair from its backrest to its feet while also serving as the chair’s base. Thanks to its elegant shape and the lightweight material, the seating area appears to float in the air. The armrests, together with the seating area, form a curved line that recalls the extended wings of a bird. The covering is made from exceptionally soft, premium-quality Pelle Frau leather.
“The chair finds its balance in the contrast between the cool, technical feeling of the aluminum and the warm, supple leather,” said Simona Falcinella, Head of Color & Trim for Audi Design.
Production of the designer piece followed two years of research. “The development of ‘Luft’ with Walter de Silva and the team from Audi design was an exciting challenge and an important, enriching experience for us.” said Roberto Archetti, Brand Director of Poltrona Frau.