Cleaner Oceans, One Seat At A Time

Sports designer Meis starts Sea Chairs to put recycled plastic in venue seating

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: October 26, 2018

Sea Chairs stadium seats will be made of recycled plastic, about 10 percent of it recycled ocean plastics. (Courtesy Sea Chairs)

Stadium and arena architect Dan Meis had always been cynical about the ability of the venues he designed to succeed in sustainability efforts. It bothered him, enough that he found his own niche to help push toward change.

Meis has launched Sea Chairs, a new stadium seat made partly with recycled ocean plastic. “I was looking for something that had a hook for me to get excited about,” Meis said. “It is an idea I have been kicking around for a while. It is pretty exciting.”

Meis, now based in New York and currently designing soccer stadiums for Major League Soccer expansion team FC Cincinnati, A.S. Roma of Italy’s Serie A and Everton of the English Premier League, partnered with Dutch furniture maker Van de Sant on a 50-50 effort in Sea Chairs. Meis provided the “big idea and design,” while Van de Sant offers the science and production.

The deal was announced in late October, and Meis said he expects to have the first wave of prototypes available by the end of the month and full-scale production in 2019. Each chair will contain about 10 percent recycled ocean plastics. The remainder will come from other recycled plastics.

Meis, inspired by actor Adrian Grenier, co-founder of nonprofit Lonely Whale, said that with so many plastics already in the world, there hasn’t been a strong economic driver for companies to source recycled plastic from the ocean. “Our stadiums are filled with plastic,” Meis said, “It seemed to me if we could design a product, there is probably something to (the economics) of it.”

The concept of designing a stadium seat had been on the mind of Meis, whose work includes Staples Center, Safeco Field and Paul Brown Stadium. Friends and colleagues suggested that if architects Norman Foster and Frank Gehry could both dabble in furniture design, Meis could take a shot with stadium furniture, such as the seat. “There isn’t a lot of leeway in the shape or form or use of it, so really it was this idea of if we can do something with an added layer of sustainability and doing something good for the world,” he said. “That is what is important.”

While Meis expects a slight premium to the cost of the seat due to sourcing the material — he won’t have final financial figures until the chair hits production and said that the larger the order for a venue, the less of a premium — he sees using the chairs in stadiums as a way for clubs to connect on an issue important with young people.

Meis worked with colleague Adrian Candela to design what he called an aesthetically pleasing and functional model, but he imagines the chairs filling portions of a stadium rather than the entire venue. With a statement on the back of the chair explaining the purpose of helping to cleanse oceans of plastic, he envisions teams filling a supporters section with the chairs to connect with the home fans.

He also expects companies would want to get involved, possibly sponsoring a club section with their name on it full of Sea Chairs. That connection allows the stadium, team and company to all market the sustainability effort.

All the projects on Meis’ design plate remain open to potentially receiving the new seats, he said.

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: October 26, 2018