Around Cal

Berkeley Magazine, Summer 1999


While about half the world eats, works and relaxes without them, why are Americans so committed to chairs -- from La-Z-BoysTM to strollers to rockers?

A book by Galen Cranz, professor of architecture, explores the history, politics and physiology of how and why we sit on chairs -- often to the detriment of our health.

"The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design," traces the chair from the Neolithic Age to the modern office, drawing on social science, design history, modern ergonomics, literature and anecdotes.

Not every culture appreciates chairs. Raised platforms in Turkish homes, Indian divans, Japanese mats and Chinese heated k'ang are but a few alternatives with virtues not to be overlooked, said Cranz.

She added that Westerners pay a high price -- increasing back problems -- for choosing chairs over squatting, kneeling and sitting cross-legged.

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