Once confined to padding wheelchairs and bicycle seats, Technogel® (created by Bayer and now made by Technogel® in Germany) is perfect for wherever a body comes into extended contact with something else -- from hospital beds to pilots' seats to, since last year, the bar stools at the Brasserie in Manhattan.
The pinchable substance has the consistency of human fat -- and since designers have found that it can be made in any candy color they want, the jiggly gel is being snapped up like gumdrops at a birthday party.
Technogel® made its first Milan fair splash in 1999 with the German designer Werner Aisslinger's Soft Cell chair shown by Droog Design.
''I saw the stuff at the Museum of Modern Art's 'Mutant Materials' exhibition in 1995, and tracked down the manufacturer,'' said Mr. Aisslinger, who refined the Droog prototype, now produced by Cappellini. Technogel® has since been seen in the cushion for Niels Diffrient's Humanscale chair and on the arms of the Leap chair from Steelcase.
Has the gel juggernaut gone too far? Saporiti Italia, a furniture manufacturer that exhibited at Milan this year, should get the award for the most extravagantly gratuitous indulgence in gel. Its Voyager Nest chaise, left, coddles weary sitters like a La-Z-Boy recliner cushioned with cherry Jell-O.
On top of that, it surrounded the metal legs of the accompanying table with thick slabs of gel, ostensibly to protect clumsy office workers from their own furniture.
(Published on April 12, 2001)