It was 1984, the era of Wham!, Thatcher, shoulder pads and luminescent Spandex. Across the North Sea in the Norwegian copper mining town of Røros, a jazz musician was about to change the philosophy of office work forever.
His name was Peter Opsvik, and by the '80s he was already a world-renowned furniture designer and inventor, having previously designed the revolutionary Tripp Trapp, an adjustable wooden chair that grows with children from their toddler to teen years.
Opsvik's life work has been to challenge preconceptions of sitting. From children taught to cross their arms and stop fidgeting in class, to office workers made to feel like shirkers for leaving their desks: he believes the social pressure to sit still over the last few centuries has been both misguided and dangerous.
"My theory about sitting is very simple: if we are allowed to move, we move," Opsvik said in 2013. "You never see people waiting for the train for example, standing still."
Have we forgotten what we're good at?
When given the choice to move, we tend to. Our bodies are good at moving: humans have spent the last 200,000 years evolving into strong, agile, fast-moving creatures with astounding survival skills. And yet modern civilization, with the advent of technology which does much of our physical work for us, means that many of us now spend whole days sitting still. Research in recent years has told us that this modern habit is literally killing us. Prolonged sitting is now known to be a critical risk factor for many diseases and is linked to premature death.
"The widespread use of tools, machines and motorized [sic] forms of transport entailed fewer opportunities for varied use of the body, and greater monotony. This in its turn became the main agent of muscular and skeletal damage especially for people who use the same tools again and again over long periods of time." - Peter Opsvik, Rethinking Sitting
The Capisco was born
Opsvik wanted to give typically sedentary office workers the all-important option to move. The Capisco was launched in collaboration with HÅG (pronounced Horg), a Scandinavian furniture design company that had already dipped its toes into the radical waters of active sitting with the world's first commercially available centre tilt chair, designed with Danish doctor Aage Christian Mandal in 1979. HÅG and Opsvik had also previously worked together on the Calypso chair.
The HÅG Capisco was like no other office chair on the market. It was inspired by the dynamic posture of a horse rider. The saddle-like seat of the Capisco supports the user in either direction, whether they're sitting forwards, sideways, or backwards. The backrest can instantly become a chest rest, with the T-shaped design offering support to the shoulders and arms. The idea is that the best position is always the next position. The body should dictate how it sits, not the chair.
Despite an initial slow uptake, the Capisco steadily began to grow in popularity and in 1988, it won the Norwegian Design Council's Award for Design Excellence. This was the first of 10 awards the Capisco earned over the last 34 years.
Good design is a continual process
During this time the Capisco's design has evolved gradually. The heavy wood and steel construction has been replaced with lightweight recycled plastics and high quality aluminium. The backrest has also been reduced from 19 to just six components, and all glue processes have been removed to allow for disassembly for easier recycling. Today over half the chair can be recycled, and the HÅG Capisco was the first office chair to ever obtain the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, which is the official sustainability license for Nordic countries.
Capisco is a chair that was well ahead of its time, but it continues to improve and adapt to the changing climate and today it fits in perfectly to our increasingly agile world. It's a favourite for artists, designers, illustrators and architects but it's also popular in dynamic environments such as labs and clinics. The Capisco Puls, the lower cost brother of the original Capisco, is especially suited to these environments thanks to its solid, wipe-clean surface.
Celebrating 75 years of HÅG
To celebrate HÅG's 75-year history in Røros, we will be supplying their limited edition Capisco with a copper-coated aluminium frame - a nod towards the once-flourishing copper mining industry that supported the people of Røros before the welcome arrival of HÅG. This exclusive product comes with its own pallet of recommended shades of Norwegian wool - all inspired by the beautiful iridescent greens and blues of a copper mine.
Our relationship with Flokk (the manufacturer of HÅG chairs), has been going strong for over two decades and we're still excited by every new product they launch. If you would like to find out about swapping your office chairs for HÅG models, then go ahead and get in touch with our seating projects team, who will support you through the entire process.