Proto chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale Magazine

Proto: A Warm Embrace

Inspired by a desire to seek shelter from an over-stimulated public realm, The Proto collection is designer Nick Ross’ interpretation of +Halle’s brief on a dwelling. By Aarthi Mohan

Proto is a series of curved, upholstered chairs, sofas, benches and stools, all working as a dynamic dwelling and referencing huts more than just rooms with four walls.

Proto Chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale Magazine“I was thinking literately about what the word dwelling meant, and it brought me back to an early type of refuge,” says Scottish-born, Stockholm-based designer Nick Ross. “Modular seating is usually something that extends in a straight line or perhaps through a bend, but I wanted to look at Proto in a more archaic way as if you are sculpting these pieces out of clay,” he says.

For the theme of dwelling, guidance from +Halle was given to three-selected design teams in the initial phase of the process, building on a purpose-led foundation. “A producer usually wants a certain outcome but don’t know where to begin the conversation, and as a designer, you are left to it: here there was a vivid discussion in the beginning, not about objects but behaviors, which allowed me to take different types of risks—I would never have designed Proto if it was not for a brief like that,” Ross admits, “Our conversation brought me to shapes that communicate with us on a primal level, and these slowly became sofas and chairs.”

Proto Chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale Magazine

+Halle’s method provided an interesting discourse around the need for confined conditions where we feel safe, resonating with all three teams in different ways. “I wanted to translate the feeling of sitting in a small tent in bad weather. I was after a basic type of dwelling, and an instinctual feeling, which I wanted to translate into a range of furniture,” he explains.

After a month apart, participants of the +Halle briefing begun presenting to each other, in a series of peer-to-peer-led meetings: “I turned up with a box full of card models and placed them on the table to let people decide what was necessary and not. It was an organic process and quite a playful one, engaging everyone in the concept,” says Ross.

Proto Chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale MagazineProto Chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale MagazineThe way +Halle and Ross developed the design of the upholstery for the collection contributed to a qualitative, tailored and comforting finish. “Highlighting the outline of the collection was an important dialogue with +Halle throughout the design process. The outer seams are not an application +Halle normally use, but something that brings a resilient and crafted look,” says the designer.

Ahead of the official launch, Proto was tested and monitored with a set of users, being closely observed around the range. As the intuition is to turn the seats, the collection proves an interesting flexible landscape of open and closed encounters. “Even the way people intuitively place two high Proto chairs next to each other, with arms touching, provides a little room, or a small, improvised habitual structure,” says Ross.

Proto Chairs designed by Nick Ross from plushalle - Scale MagazineThe installation of Proto is not only fundamentally adaptable to its context but also flexible to any environment—a testament that the use of Proto is constantly evolving. “I envisioned Proto in places where you may be vulnerable, needing a safe corner in a landscape of uncertainty,” Ross concludes. “Hospitals are an interesting setting—or any space where you need that inner feeling of security. And perhaps bigger workspaces, where you want to speak to a selected few in a crowded space, using Proto to foster an intimacy that often gets lost today.”