Remarkable product designs of 2021 that champion innovation and sustainability
by Jincy IypeDec 17, 2021
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by STIRworldPublished on : Oct 22, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered hard-driven habits and routine-based lifestyles, urging creatives to adjust their processes and adopt new technologies to reconsider the way people live, interact and work. Catering to the new work-from-home ethic adopted worldwide, nine international designers created imaginative tables and seating designs as part of an installation, titled Connected, at the Design Museum in London.
The project, commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark Furniture and the Design Museum, challenged the selected designers with a brief that called for a table and seating to suit their new ways of living and working from home, utilising American hardwoods. An additional implicit challenge was to develop their designs at a time of limited physical contact, relying solely on digital communication and video conferencing to bring their visions to life.
The Swiss designer’s WFH setup is driven by a strong narrative that guides the construction and material choice. The table has a metal base plate and frame to support the tabletop. Inspiration from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland reflects in the varying heights of the irregular-shaped extrusions of the underframe.
A colourful glass epoxy finish coats the table top, and intricate brass detailing - which doubles as drainage for its outdoor environment - accentuates the piece. Constructed similarly to the table, the bench utilises a metal frame cased within sculptural timber extrusions. The top has a subtle camber for drainage, and a removable vegetable tanned leather seat pad with stitched perimeter, made by leather specialists Bill Amberg Studio.
Showcasing exemplary Nordic designs, Bruun’s collection lets the material and construction carry the design. An elegant wooden hinge forms the key detail of the American maple seating and gate-leg table, spanning the length of the tabletop to lift and drop the leaf. To ensure smooth operation, the components for the hinge are turned and drilled to within a fraction of a millimeter.
The seat designed by the Denmark-based creative references the functional lines of the table, with turned rounded feet intersecting the square profile of the table leg. Stackable stools with rounded seat pads are machined from solid maple to celebrate the choice of timber.
Uniting the premises for work, eating, leisure and play, the Mesamachine resembles a Swiss army knife with its functional elements extendable to serve a multitude of functions. The main table is built like a hollow torsion box, offering various storage solutions. Tensioning ribs support the table along its length, the two stools and a bench following the same design language. The American cherry shelves work on runners and involve an exacting degree of precision to allow for the station’s flexibility. Smiley faces liven up the complex and ambitious multi-element build, developed in Spain.
The UK-established Heatherwick Studio displays the power of biophilia in their design entitled Stem. Plants grow out of curved CNC-machined table legs that support a glass tabletop. The studio chose nature as their starting point for the design, being devoid of any, after spending three months at the same desk. “With video conferencing, the space around you becomes a mini television studio - what is behind you and around you is now being seen by the world,” they explained.
The American maple workstation evolved from the craft of wooden spoon carving. The same principle was applied to the shelving unit, with carved timber uprights and glass shelves. The seat will be upholstered in Gotland shearling, with a carved base that mimics the other elements.
The name Stammtisch translates to ‘regulars table’ - a space for friends and family to gather every week. The name sparked the design by German furniture designer Sebastian Herkner, resulting in an organic and modular form that served as a landscape where various elements of his day meet.
The characteristic shape that defines the design was achieved through spindle-moulding the timber for the tabletop and other components. The tabletop and the movable trays that run along the length with skived tracks were then carefully joined and glued to build the piece. The large tray is made from American maple, ammonia fumed with a clear matt natural oil finish and the stools and small tray are made from scorched red oak.
Fuelled by the sculptural forms and the architecture of Benedictine abbeys, Arco appears structurally simple while displaying proficiency in the degree of manufacturing. Focalising a prominent curve, the table employs prime American cherry with planks carefully grain matched and machined. The table’s angled legs are an unusual quarter-moon shape and create tension through the top by use of inset metal plates. The Polish designer intended a sculptural piece, the chair mimicking the curves of the body and its side panels coppered.
Sabine Marcelis from the Netherlands has moved from ‘working mode’ into ‘hiding mode’ with her design. Inspired by the suitcase scene in Pulp Fiction, the cubicle built of veneered American maple holds compartments for books and a computer, with a maple circular stool. A yellow high-gloss translucent lacquer provides a pop of colour when the cubicle is opened, subtly veiling the fine maple grain underneath. Matching yellow casters allow the piece to be easily closed when the working day is over.
Exploring the idea of cycles of renewal and new beginnings, the Italian studio’s design is inspired by the Pink moon in spring. The construction involved contrasting inlay details on the table’s legs and a contemporary seat inspired by a Charles Rennie Mackintosh frame. American maple timber was CNC cut to obtain the natural form, and further stained and oiled. The tabletop was planked, legs were mitred together, and then the contrast inlay fitted flush. A large maple CNC machined ‘moon’ forms the chair’s unique backrest drilled into the back legs.
Studio Swine celebrated timber in its finest form with a throne-style seat and table, inspired by traditional Chinese gardens and the archetype of the Ming Chair. The warm caramel tones of American cherry make up the solid seat and back leg, while American oak was steam bent to form the curved front legs, arms and backrest. The steam bend for the arms was complex to fabricate as it bends across two axes - requiring a team of six craftspeople and a specially constructed jig to create its novel form. An inset laptop shelf acts as a tensioning brace for the table.
The exhibition showcases the unique experiments that pushed the boundaries of designing in a new social context. The diverse and personal designs challenged the notions of complexity and attention to detail, utilising sustainable timbers to bring the designer’s ideas alive. The project sought to prove that a lockdown doesn't get in the way of creativity and rightfully did so with each designer approaching their processes with a fresh perspective - questioning the basics of design.
The designs were displayed from September 11–October 11, 2020, as a temporary 30-day exhibition at the Design Museum London.
(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)
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