Making a seat for lifelong learning

1 April 2019

Photo of Adam Goodrum

Pictured: Adam Goodrum. Photography by Kevin Cheung.

Creating a chair for the next generation of UTS students has been a career highlight for alum and award-winning industrial designer Adam Goodrum.

It’s widely agreed: Adam Goodrum makes beautiful chairs. His ‘Stitch’ chair is sold around the world by famed Italian furniture brand Cappellini and his ‘Eve’ chair won him the prestigious Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award in 2005.

Now the Perth-raised industrial designer is awaiting the unveiling of a chair he created for a very different space: the new UTS Reading Room. Set to open late this year, this scholarly space will bring the tradition of the world’s great universities to the UTS community and Ultimo precinct.

“I’m very excited to see the chair in its space. They are hand-crafted, made from solid timber and will last a lifetime. I really appreciate design which has a connection to people or a place. So for UTS to be doing this is really special.”

Adam designed the one-of-a-kind chairs during his time as Artist in Residence for the new UTS Library in 2016. His brief was to create a chair for the new triple-height reading room – a space where people will come to read and reflect deeply on their area of study.

“It’s designed for the comfort of someone who is sitting, reading a book. The armrest is a complex shape that’s very difficult to make. The chairs will face into desks so I’ve also given special attention to how they look from behind. The back legs run all the way up, with vertical lines that reference book spines on a library shelf.”

Adam said it’s been a privilege to create a piece that will be used by UTS students like he was.

That’s high praise from someone who has won a handful of global design awards and whose work sits in major museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Design Museum Gent in Belgium.

Here in Australia, his ‘Adam Goodrum by CULT’ furniture range with high-end design retailer CULT is proof that his design work stands with the best in the world.

It’s been a steady path to success for the Lego-obsessed kid from Perth who grew up making tree houses, go-karts and surfboard trolleys. In high school, Adam loved art and thought about pursuing fine arts. Then he learnt of industrial design, where he could combine his eye for beauty with his flair for making things.

At the age of 17, Adam jumped on the Indian-Pacific train from Perth to start an Industrial Design degree at UTS. Here he was influenced by Jim Montague, who schooled him in the history of design, and Carl Nielsen, a pioneer of industrial design in Australia.

“We were very fortunate to have Carl as a lecturer. I’d go to him with something I thought was very complex, and he’d always break it down. He definitely influenced me and my design process. I try to fully resolve things and simplify everything back to its most basic state.”

In third year, Adam created his first folding chair and realised that furniture design was his future. He started his own business as a side project as soon as he graduated, and won Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Designer of the Year award in 1997. Adam is humble about how quickly his career took off after that.

“I’ve been quite fortunate in winning some competitions. Some had money prizes, which I spent on creating new pieces when I had no money. Some had trips overseas. I went to the Milan Furniture Fair which really opened my eyes to designers and brands around the world.”

Today, Adam works closely with a few clients to, “create functional objects with personality or a spirit.” He also shares his skills with UTS students as a mentor and part-time lecturer.

“Some have interned in my studio, which has been wonderful, and I also keep in contact with many students. There is a real appetite for Australian design right now. So it’s very exciting to see these graduates having great opportunities and forming part of a new culture of design in Australia.”

Design trophies sit artfully in the colourful Waterloo studio that Adam shares with his graphic designer wife Michelle and their new Australian bulldog George.

But Adam says his biggest professional thrill still comes from seeing people use the objects he’s created. Soon he’ll see the first students sit, read and reflect on the UTS Reading Room chair.

“Hopefully it’s a comfortable chair, people enjoy sitting on it and it enhances the space. I just have to wait until it’s all in there and the vision happens!”

You can make a gift towards the new UTS Library and Reading Room, so our students and community can enjoy these extraordinary learning spaces for generations to come. Support the library of the future here..


Byline: Felicity Kitson