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Pouch | Restaurant


Although the Pouch was not widely used in 1980- and 1990-decade restaurants, it became popular early in the 21st century.



“Pelican” designed in 1940 by Finn Juhl (1912-1989), a Danish designer and architect, may prove to be the earliest type in this chronological sequence.1  The Pelican presents an organic form as the body of the chair. It is as if the back, arms and seat were cut from whole cloth in one seamless gesture. Only the stubby round wooden legs appear incongruous. The Pelican does not have arms in so much as it has an upper body. Conventional chair arms serve as armrests, but the Pelican offers no place to put one’s arms except within the upholstered confines of the chair. A distinguishing feature of the reiterative designs for the Pouch series is the sense of being almost totally enclosed by the chair.

Wing Chairs of the 17th through the 19th centuries have some similarities with the Pouch. Wings are also lounge chairs that exhibit a high back and a “wing” that encloses the head. Carlo Mollino’s Armchair for Minola House (1944) and Hans Wegner’s OX (1958) appear as contemporary versions of Wing chairs.2  Unlike Pouch, Wing types do not fully envelop the human body, and wing chairs have traditional armrests.

Arne Jacobson’s Egg and Swan chairs (1958), designed for the lounge areas of the lobby of the Royal Hotel, Copenhagen, are the most recognized of this reiterative sequence of Pouch designs. Jacobsen (1902-1971), a Danish architect and furniture designer, adapted new materials such as metals and plastics to produce organic forms for furniture. The Egg and Swan chairs integrate the seat and back in a single piece.3  Seated in Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, one experiences a sense of protection.

The Ball Chair (1963) and the Bubble Chair (1968) designed by Eero Aarnio (1932-   ), a Finish interior designer, express the pop culture of the 1960s decade. Like the Scandinavian designers before him, Eero Aarnio began experimenting with plastics, bright colors and organic forms, breaking away from traditional design conventions. Both chairs provide a pouch in which one sits deep in the chair; upon drawing one’s legs up and into the round form, there is an almost complete sense of enclosure. The outer shell is hard and the inside soft (padded and upholstered). The Ball sits on an oval pedestal low to the floor plane. The Bubble Chair reiterates the Ball, but the Bubble is transparent and suspended from an overhead plane. Both chairs have special acoustic effects.4

Henrik Thor-Larsen (1932-   ), also a Danish designer, created the Ovalia Chair in 1968. Ovalia reiterates Aarnio’s Ball Chair in all but the form; Ovalia is egg-shaped. It too has a hard outer shell of glass fiber-reinforced polyester painted shiny white and a soft cushioned interior of polyester and synthetic padding. Its painted or polished aluminum base, also on a low stand, rotates or can be removed. Like the Ball Chair, pop culture embraced the Ovalia; it has appeared in several futuristic films, television commercials and print advertisements, as well as the movie, Men In Black (1997). Unlike the Ball Chair, however, its form restricts the body from curling up in it comfortably.5

Pouches in Restaurants. In 1971, Jacobsen’s Egg chairs were installed in the lounge of Alfie’s Restaurant lounge in Chicago. Despite the chair’s modern sensibility, the designer, Brock Arms, chose it because of its high back in order to accommodate an older clientele who preferred few distractions for conversation. The designer also added a fireplace, bookshelves, wood wall paneling, and a plaid carpet to place the chairs in a traditional setting.6  

Although the Pouch typology was not popular during the 1980s and 1990s, it has been used frequently in 21st century restaurants. At the W Hotel in Seoul, Korea (2005), two different types of Pouches are installed in the dining/lounge area. One is shaped like a half-cut egg, and the other is more like a half-cut avocado. These cell-like chairs without a raised base, designed by Studio Gaia, define dining spaces, rather than walls or partitions.7   The sound quality inside the Pouch is unique as well; sound is easily captured inside because of the enclosure, and it also amplifies the sound coming from the person sitting on the chair.

Another pouch-like chair, possibly inspired by French Louis XVBergere chairs, appeared first in a 1960 Interior Design advertisement for Meyer-Gunther-Martini chair, designed by Constantin Carroll.8  In design trade magazines, the chair type does not emerge again until 2006 in Interior Design. They are shown as side chairs in Bergdorf Goodman’s cafeteria, designed by the interior designer Kelly Wearstler, in New York City. Although placed in an open lounge space, these chairs give a person visual privacy. The acoustical experience is comparable to Jacobson’s Egg chairs in the W Hotel, Seoul, Korea. On a site visit to the W Hotel in Seoul and the Bergdorf Goodman store in New York City, this researcher sat in the chair and talked to a companion. In both instances, I experienced an echo inside the chair that adds a distinctive quality to the sense of enclosure.9

Pouches in restaurants create special spatial qualities to dining spaces. The forms act as main architectural elements, and the experience of patrons using these chairs is visually and acoustically dynamic.10

end notes

  1. 1) Charlotte and Peter Fiell, 1000 Chairs (New York: Taschen, 1997), 285.
  2. 2) Fiell, 1000 Chairs, 282, 346.
  3. 3) Carsten Thau and Kjeld Vindum, Arne Jacobsen (Copenhagen: Arketektens forlag / Danish Architectural Press, 2001), 142; Fiell, 1000 Chairs, 346.
  4. 4) Eero Aarnio, Finland, “Eero Aarnio—Finland”, (accessed July 21, 2008); Fiell, 1000 Chairs, 429.
  5. 5) Olivia Egg Chair,” (accessed July 21, 2008).
  6. 6) Sherman R. Emery, “Work by AID Members: Brock Arms,” Interior Design 42, no. 8 (Aug. 1971): 126.
  7. 7) Raul Barreneche, “W Hotel,” Architectural Record 193, no. 11 (Nov. 2005): 157.
  8. 8) “Advertisement for Meyer-Gunther-Martini,” Interior Design 31, no. 9 (Sept. 1960): 144.
  9. 9) Jasmin Cho, Field Study to New York City, March 22, 2008.


  10. 10) Evidence for the use and the chronological sequence of Pouch as a restaurant archetype was developed from the following sources: 1970 Alfie's Cocktail Lounge [1971] Brock Arms, Ames/Addkison Environmental Designers; Chicago, IL in Anonymous, "Brock Arms," Interior Design 42, no. 8 (Aug. 1971): 126; PhotoCrd: Idaka / 2000 Glass [2001] Leeser Architecture; New York City in Cynthia Davidson, "Glass Bar, Bot, Pod Restaurant," Architectural Record 189, no. 9 (Sep. 2001): 135; PhotoCrd: atthu Placek Photo Design; Restaurant in W Hotel [2005] Studio Gaia, Tony Chi, and Rad; Seoul, Korea in Raul Barreneche, "W Hotel," Architectural Record 193, no. 11 (Nov. 2005): 155-57; PhotoCrd: Seung Hoon Yum; Restaurant in Bergdorf Goodman [2006] Kelly Wearstler; New York City in Aric Chen, "Dining on Seven," Interior Design 77, no. 4 (Apr. 2006): 261; PhotoCrd: Annie Schlechter; NYLO Hotel [2008] Stephane Dupoux; Plano, TX in Stacy Shoemaker, "Lofty Ideals," Hospitality Design 30, no. 2 (Mar. 2008): 124; PhotoCrd: MK Photography.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Cho, Jasmin. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Restaurant Design.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2009, 76-86.