DESIGN STORY: Voyage To Furniture Fantasia
A collection of tables, chairs, speakers, benches, lights, and vases sure to fire the imagination.
Dozie Kanu crafted this steel and concrete chair, Chair ( x ) (The Reaper) (2019), for ARS JUS PAX, his recent solo exhibition at Johnson Trading Gallery’s Detroit outpost located in Woods Cathedral, a formerly abandoned Catholic church built in 1925. The show borrows its name from the insignia of the Royal Niger Company, which was foundational to the colonization of Nigeria, where Kanu’s parents are from, and Nigerian anti-imperial history served as inspiration for the show. The cross-backed chair was one of over 30 pieces exhibited, which together pose questions regarding ethics and exchange in commerce, colonialism, Christianity, and art. Chair ( x ) (The Reaper) is available through Salon 94 Design.
Designed by French brothers Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, the Découpage vase series was presented as prototypes during Milan Design Week in April 2019. There are over two dozen different variations but the base is always the same: a die-cast ceramic cylinder with flower-like cut-outs (hence the name) or extrusions that sprout like branches from the main body. The vases’ neo-naïve aesthetic, more in line with cheerful children’s doodles than the clean lines of mass-produced industrial design, represents a departure for the Bouroullecs as well as for Vitra, who will produce them. The Découpage collection is expected to go into production in 2020.
Leave it to Beaver, the all-American sitcom from the 1950s and 60s, is the eponym for this classic Adirondack-style chair, the gnawed-away-at edges of the whitewashed maple wood giving the impression that an actual beaver could be the true author of the piece. But the Leave it to Beaver Sunday Chair was in fact designed by Noah Spencer, co-founder of the New York art and design collective Fort Makers. The chair, designed in 2010, dates back to the group’s early days. This summer they celebrated their ten-year anniversary with the opening of a new gallery space on New York’s Lower East Side. Go visit now.
Dipping light (2018) by the Barcelona-based designer Jordi Canudas was named after the process with which it was made: Canudas dipped the glass globe that holds the light source into paint with varying depth and duration, creating concentric layers of color intensity. The light, which is completed by a matte brass base, is produced by Marset and comes in six different colors.
Life’s a party with these anthropomorphic sconces, designed by the Dutch design duo Kranen/Gille, which bear a vague resemblance to the Doozers of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. Made of cast ceramic and aluminum, the Party Wall Sconces embody five characters: The Mayor, Coco, Bert, Glenn, and Ted, each one complete with their own character description. One’s a “want-to-be aristocrat,” another’s an “evil mastermind” — with five distinct personalities, there’s bound to be a light fixture for everyone. The Party Wall Sconces are available through Moooi.
An engineer by training, Arizona-based sculptor Al Qöyawayma has perhaps become best known for his sculptural vessels made of clay sourced from his Hopi homelands. Here, the architecturally-inflected Chetro Ketl (1992) from the Mesa Verde series features a classic cliff dwelling — the keyhole doors of which “may represent a dualism relating to major ceremonial structures of the Mesoamerican region,” according to the artist — with an overall form inspired by the traditional ceramic jars known as ollas in Central Arizona’s Hohokam culture.
Foster + Partners is an engineering firm as much as it is a design firm. This is evident in their large-scale engineering feats such as the glass cupola on the Reichstag building in Berlin (1999), the Millau viaduct (2004), or Beijing Capital International Airport (2008). But it also reveals itself in less obvious ways through the numerous object design projects the firm undertakes. Case in point: the new Ava table from Foster + Partners designed for Molteni & C. whose shape was inspired by the lightweight forms of aircraft wings and bridges. The Ava is a natural progression from the Elements collection, a modular line of office furniture Foster + Partners previously created for Molteni’s commercial design subsidiary, UniFor. Elements was made mostly of steel and glass but for Ava the designers “wanted to explore the same spirit of flexibility and exact-ness of detail as in the Elements line through a different material that was more suited to a domestic setting,” says Mike Holland, head of Foster + Partners industrial design division. The solution was to recreate the Ava entirely out of timber wood, either walnut or eucalyptus, and sourced from responsibly-managed forests, providing a more residential warmth. Despite the material’s domestic feel, the Ava’s 1-meter cantilever on both sides, its blade-thin edges, and the sculpted tapered legs maintain the soaring aerodynamic spirit of its more industrial looking sister. The Ava is available through Molteni & C. and comes in three standard lengths of up to 12.5 feet — which technically speaking is a third of the length of a small private jet.
Flying down the highway, blasting music — it’s one of the quintessential experiences of the open road. Perhaps that’s the reason why the speakers took up so much space in Built from the Same Chassis, a recent exhibition (June 2019) by artist Sam Stewart at Megamegamegamegamega gallery in Milan. The show presented a deconstructed automobile interior featuring video and audio components made in collaboration with Adrianna Glaviano. Produced in a light creamy beige and measuring 45-inches tall, the speakers have the color of early-aughts office interiors, and Stewart notes, take on the future-retro unreal quality of the SketchUp models they’re made from. They’re like “a rendering come to life.” Available through Fort Gansevoort, New York.
André Ricard, the Catalan industrial designer responsible for the 1992 Olympic torch, designed this fun, small, and flexible table lamp in 1972. Ricard’s design was in part inspired by the airplane reading lights which illuminated a book on Argentinian wildlife he read during a transatlantic flight. It’s no doubt that in his reading, Ricard came across the name Tatu, which is the Portuguese colloquial word for armadillo, the hard-shelled mammal native to South America whose ability to expand and roll up into a bundle also most certainly inspired the design of the Tatu light. Spanish lighting company Santa & Cole recently re-released Tatu with new LED technology.
Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek is best known for his large-scale, sometimes bulky furniture pieces. Though they may seem to stand in contrast to his other work, Eek’s Past & Future light (2018) with delicate Murano glass elements is in fact keeping with the designer’s bricolage methodology that often involves reusing leftover building materials. In this case Eek sourced discarded hand-blown baubles during a residency at the Veronese glass factory near Venice, reusing those that didn’t make the cut for a chandelier. The result is Mecano-style bouquet of individually LED-lit Murano glass pieces. The light also bears an uncanny resemblance to elaborate 17th-century Dutch tulip vases. The Past & Future light is available through the Future Perfect in New York.
Since the early days of Artek, there has been an unmistakable connection between the essential aesthetics of the Finnish furniture design company (which was co-founded by architect Alvar Aalto in 1935) and the often-minimal design culture of Japan. To celebrate this mutual affinity, Artek recently released the FIN/JPN Friendship Collection. Among the most outstanding pieces is the ColoRing series by Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects. Nagasaka was inspired by the udukuri and tsugaru-nuri wood grain and lacquer techniques and applied them in various colors to Artek classics, like the stool, tea trolley, and bench (pictured).
Selection by PIN–UP.