Between chairs based on Japanese Samurai swords and floating seats that exist as an NFT, Korsagy by designer Ahmed Amr Helmy explores the futuristic possibilities of chair design.
What does the future of chair design hold? Will they be finely crafted like a Samurai’s blade, or will they defy gravity to float in mid-air, accessible only through the metaverse? These are the questions that often preoccupy Egyptian designer Ahmed Amr Helmy. Between hours of work at Amr Helmy Designs, Helmy launched his own brand, Korsagy, in 2018 to explore what makes chairs work and how to bring them to their limit.
“I wanted to study design so I moved to Italy, and out of all the beautiful aesthetics there, what caught my eye were chairs,” Helmy tells #SceneHome. “Once I learned how to model them, I just wouldn’t stop.” After moving back to Egypt in 2016, he began to work with his father, renowned architect Amr Helmy, where he gained invaluable experience crafting all sorts of intricate furniture. Think Haute Couture walk-in closets that rotate and sometimes include a secret room or two.
“Chairs are great at conveying taste,” Helmy explains. When he launched Korsagy, his first product was a flat pack, with 2D laser-cut layers assembled into a sleek Scandinavian chair. “They’re microcosms of design styles. Add some gold and you delve into luxury. Keep the lines minimal and it’s Nordic.”
At the 2021 edition of the Cairo Design Award, Korsagy displayed ‘Chor Minor’, a chair made of massive walnut wood that took four years of variations and 3D modeling before it was ready. To Helmy’s surprise, it was a hit. “It’s surreal to see a 3D model turn into something people can sit on, let alone actually like,” Helmy says. “I knew I had more to offer so I intensified my designs so that they are more thought-provoking and edgy.”
It’s difficult to judge whether this proclination towards evocative and unconventional design only began just then, or if it was always part of Korsagy’s DNA. The ‘Katana’ chair - featuring two Japanese swords discretely integrated into its design - is a direct reflection of Helmy’s mindset. “There is honour in specialization, I wanted to only focus on chairs and constantly refine my process every day,” Helmy explains. “Just like Japanese craftsmanship perfected the art of bladesmithing.”
Sometimes inspiration comes from without, mirroring Helmy’s experiences. He noticed while working on one of Amr Helmy Designs’ fashion-oriented wardrobes that Christian Dior apprenticed Pierre Balmain during one of his first exhibitions. “I created a chair based on the dress that stole the night,” Helmy explains. The chair in question - named ‘Corolle’, which means ‘flower petal’ - is crafted to capture the subtle fluidity of fabric in still form, creating the illusion of movement. The chair further emulated the dress with an inverted ‘A’ on the front, the same shape made when Balmain stitched a skirt on top of another skirt.
More often than not, inspiration did not come in a sudden, illuminating flash, but through careful and measured consideration. “The hardest part of design is coming up with a concept,” Helmy continues. “I try to do it lucidly to become more receptive and mindful, like a hermit looking for inspiration within.” Which could explain how he created his ‘Yoga Mat’ chair, which he made especially for local health coach and influencer ‘Malouka The Hungry Yogi’. “My wife is a health and yoga coach so we have a lot of mats lying around the house. I made a chair that uses them for cushioning and has holders for pilates sticks.”
As far as concepts go, the ‘Effortless’ chair came to Helmy from an altogether more spiritual source than usual. Helmy was inspired by the Throne Verse in the 2nd Surah of the Holy Quran, Al Baqarah. It states how God spans the universe in its entirety, effortlessly. Although Helmy did not plan to try to depict this verse literally, he was intrigued by a specific notion that it conveyed: what would a chair that evokes effortlessness look like?
Beyond the extremely organic - almost otherworldly - form, Helmy’s ‘Effortless’ is composed of marble seating that is suspended in midair using magnets and electronically charged copper wiring, so that it floats, naturally. A chair with a literal floating seat already seems futuristic enough - and with the advent of blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it was natural for ‘Effortless’ to venture forth into sci-fi territory. “I make most of my chairs digitally and I’ve been interested in NFTs so it only made sense to mint it, hoping that it nudges people into talking about this important topic,” Helmy explains. ‘Effortless’ can only be bought using Ethereum as an NFT with unlockable content. Not only will the blockchain prove your ownership of it, you will also get it delivered physically. “It would be cool, if at a digital art exhibition you sit on it while owning it as an NFT,” Helmy says.
And the future doesn’t stop there. “It is critical to bring this craft to the 21st century and beyond,” Helmy says. “What will the chairs used when we are interplanetary look like? Or in Martian schools? Better yet, when we have a sit-down with aliens, what will we be sitting on?” It’s the sort of question that may seem too mundane for most people to consider. For Helmy and Korsagy, however, it is the nexus for his creativity and his craftsmanship, coming through in every chair he creates.