Archive for the ‘furniture’ Category

Torggler doors

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Klemens Torggler door evolution

Two brilliant, beautiful door designs by Klemens Torggler. Above is the Evolution; below is the Stahltür. They work on a similar principle.

I find the doors so beautiful that to some extent questions about practicality seem a bit irrelevant, but let’s deal with those first. One architect asked what design problem the doors solve. The answer is perhaps that they avoid the space-inefficient arc of a swing door on the one hand, and the functional and maintenance problems posed by sliding door tracks on the other. While they are perhaps not as space efficient as sliding doors embedded in a wall, it’s a fact that good sliding doors are costly and time-consuming to install after the fact. I’ve done it and it’s a pain; you have to remove a lot of drywall, turn the studs on edge, install (which can be finicky) and re-drywall. Whilte it’s true that you can install sliding doors on the face of a wall (ie. a “barn door”), that too requires tracks and/or hangers. The Torggler doors avoid all of that hardware and setup. I’m unclear how difficult these would be to install, not to mention fix once the hinges or articulating folds break down, they look as if they have few parts.

The doors are probably not particularly soundproof without the addition of a door frame. Also, with the Stahltür’s almost medieval clang you could hardly creep in or out of the bedroom quietly. It’s as if there might be a knight on the other side when you open it. Or a dragon, or a dungeon.

Another reaction was “hopeless for children,” but then before a certain age children can’t reach door handles either. And if we’d had this in the house when I was a kid I’d have been profoundly impressed.

Quite apart from the basic function question, I would say that aesthetic pleasure and wonder are an important function too.  The beauty of this object at rest and in motion never gets boring. And how often is it that we see a familiar object like a door reconsidered in an entirely new way? This was a bit like seeing a Delorean open for the first time, but far more magical and arguably more practical.

The Evolution alternately reminds me of the slow wing flap of manta rays, Japanese origami, or actual magic.

I’d love to have both of these doors. My first thought was a wish my mathematician father were still alive to see them.

Friend and architectural photographer Krista Jahnke first told me about these.

TorgglerdoorStahltur

Interpretation of Enzo Mari’s Sedia Chair by Russell Baker, Bombast Furniture

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

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Russell Baker, Allahppliqué, 2013
Pine, paint, tape, cushion, hockey sticks, pom-poms, leather, fabric. 1 of 1.

I ended up buying this chair at the auction I wrote about previously. I had no intention of buying anything nor any budget to buy but that is why they serve you champagne at auctions. Though I guess if I’d thought about it the chances of  leaving without this chair were always going to be small. The proceeds go toward building a new Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver.

I know Russell as a fellow designer. Like me, he comes from a visual arts background. He himself makes chairs (and other furniture) and is also a writer and art critic. His company, Bombast Furniture, is named for the cotton stuffing inside upholstery. The street meaning of “bombast” does not apply to his furniture, though, which is not loud and which is carefully designed and constructured to last at least 100 years.

There is humour in Allahppliqué but of course that doesn’t make it frivolous. I could talk about this piece at length but instead I will let Russell do it. Below is the text he wrote to accompany the chair. It stands as a statement about design in general, and I love it for its re-statement of the original critical or revolutionary impetus in Italian design.

 

Allahppliqué: Toward a Radical Bricologic
Russell Baker

It was while I was sitting in front of the Hermes boutique in Terminal 4, Heathrow, when transiting from Tangier (aka the Interzone) to Vancouver, that I first intuited that Enzo Mari, the man who famously called Rem Koolhaas a “pornographic window dresser” to his face—it was while sitting in front of the Hermes boutique that I realized Enzo might never have heard of Dina, the greatest living belly dancer in the Arab world. How this (merely probable) fact might relate to my project, I was at that time unsure. (How does one account for solitudes of this nature?) When I subsequently passed the Hermes boutique at YVR upon my return home, I had a better idea of how, precisely, the Enzo Mari/Dina axis (as I now refer to it privately) related to my project.

To back up a few steps—and for the purposes of clarity—I should add that before my departure for the Interzone I had been invited to participate in a fundraiser auction for Presentation House Gallery. The Gallery had offered me an Enzo Mari “Sedia” chair and invited me to do whatever I wanted to the chair. Upon completion, my manipulated version of “Sedia” would be offered at auction to supporters of the gallery in a relatively standard dinner-format fundraiser.

The “Sedia” is of course the most famous manifestation of Mari’s legendary DIY project (“Autoprogettazione”) from 1974. “Sedia” is a form rich in associations, and has been variously interpreted; it has been read as a gesture of disgust, as an offer of freedom, as a shot over the bow of the good ship consumerism from “the critical conscience of Italian design.” It is also, now, repackaged and delivered in a ready to assemble (RTA) format, something different than it once was.

My challenge, as I understood it, was to reinvigorate or reactivate the revolutionary potential lurking beneath various layers of historical accretion that had attached to the “Sedia” since its original appearance. As Mari has himself observed, the chair found its way very quickly into the arena of pure kitsch — was assimilated almost immediately into the marketplace as an (admittedly exemplary) manifestation of the decorative category “rusticity”. How then to reactivate a revolutionary object that had, by its creators own admission, enjoyed such a fleeting moment of relative power uncontaminated by market forces? To put it more simply, how was I to save “Sedia” from becoming just another signifier of belonging for an ever-growing group of puritanical internationalist consumers whose apparent appreciation of “simplicity” so perfectly paralleled an earlier generation’s drive toward “rusticity” (cf. Terence Conran, terra cotta, balsamic vinegar, Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous). No small challenge indeed!

To understand the “Dina Thing” (by which I mean my unconscious concatenation of Hermes, Enzo Mari, and Dina) you would have to have had the experience of being shadowed by CIA operatives in Cairo, just before the so-called Arab Spring; to be innocently enjoying a belly dance extravaganza, at four in the morning, in a night club that seemed the perfect meeting place for secret agents, crooks, fellow travelling fruits and gamblers — a veritable Eldorado for the fun-loving but decidedly dishevelled Gulf State “Haute Volée.” (Boy can they drink!)

Such was the experiential ground of the symbolic fusion that linked Hermes, Enzo Mari and Dina in my mind. For it was upon identifying the CIA operative in that bar, and realizing that his reason for being there was me, that I came to a rather concrete understanding of the new geopolitical realities. (It didn’t make me feel safer.) That I had somehow been mistaken for a “person of interest” in the most serious of international conflicts in our time for simply expressing a passing interest in the Islamic world (how else can I characterize my interest in Dina?) was food for thought. Could the dominant world order (symbolized here synecdochically by the “global” brand Hermes), be so fragile that my peripatetic, merely touristic wanderings through the Islamic borderlands actually attracted official attention? If this were so, might there be in this fact a clue as to how to reactivate “Sedia”?

What I was looking for was a recipe for (market) unassimilability that yet might somehow simultaneously invite a higher union. Was such a thing even possible?

Chair, Russell Baker

—Tangier, Morocco. October, 2013

Enzo Mari’s classic 1970s chair modified by artists and designers – Presentation House Gallery auction

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Enzo Mari chair modified by Omer Arbel

Vancouver’s Presentation House Gallery turns 30 this year and will soon move to a beautiful new building designed by the eminent Vancouver firm Patkau Architects. To mark its birthday and raise money for the move, PHG is holding an innovative benefit auction in which major Vancouver artists and designers have been given a classic 1970s Enzo Mari Sedia 1 chair and asked to modify or reinterpret it. See the full list of artists and works on the auction blog (just note that not all of the works have been delivered, so some of the entries don’t have photos yet). The auction is on Saturday, November 23, 2013. Tickets available by phone 604.986.1351. As of publication of this post I think there are a small number of tickets left.

Above is “68.3 chair” which is the original Mari chair sandblasted by noted Vancouver designer Omer Arbel, principal at Omer Arbel Office and creative director of Bocci. Presumably Arbel’s title refers to the percentage of the original chair left after sandblasting, by weight? Perhaps this is how the original chair would look had it been left to weather in desert winds since the 70s.

Below is an as yet untitled chair by Russell Baker, partner and principal designer for BOMBAST Furniture. I like many of the chairs in the auction but on balance I think this is the one I would bid on if I had the dough. It’s beautiful, and its atypical combination of emblems and identity markers is poignant in a way that is hard to put your finger on. I like that Russell also consulted a YouTube video on how to make pompoms so he could construct these by hand.

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Achilles chair, Espeth Pratt & Javier Campos

Above, Achilles by artist Elspeth Pratt and architect Javier Campos. The chair has been treated using a traditional Japanese method of preserving wood by turning its surface to charcoal using a torch. Architects Shigeru Ban and Terunobu Fujimori have used this ancient preservation method in their architecture. Using it here, however, renders the chair non-functional since the carbon seems likely to rub off on clothes. That is, the treatment effectively renders the chair a work of art or conceptual architecture, not furniture. (In fact though I am sure the surface has been treated in such a way that this wouldn’t happen.)

PHG auction chair - Ian's crate by Brian Jungen

Above, Ian’s crates by artist Brian Jungen. Brian has famously worked with chairs before, his whale skeletons made from disassembled white plastic chairs. Here, however, he does not disassemble a Mari chair but actually copies one from an old art crate that once transported the work of fellow artist Ian Wallace. Clever play on the contrast between functionality and art, furniture and meaning, utility and transformation.

And below, SMPTE Colour Index Study Number 001, the Sedia 1 chair disassembled and reassembled in one plane and painted in video colour bar tones by Douglas Coupland. Who was, by the way, born in North Vancouver’s nearby Lion’s Gate Hospital, so PHG gallery is close to home for him. Another copy of the original chair is included in the photo by way of comparison.

modified Enzo Mari chair by Douglas Coupland

Check back to the blog over the next week as more photos will appear.

 

Eileen Gray – Transat Chair

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Transat Chair, by Eileen Gray. Paris, France, 1926

 

Superb modern chair by Eileen Gray, featured in a Guardian list this this week. It’s the Transat Chair (1925-30).

“The Transat chair is from the late 1920s, when Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand were forging in tubular steel assertive icons of the machine age. Transat, with its spare timber frame and graceful curve of fabric, had more subtle ambitions. Gray, as her collaborator Jean Badovici said, was concerned with the “new ways of feeling” that came with their times, rather than with mass production. Transat – which is short for “transatlantique” – translates a deckchair from an ocean liner into a piece of indoor furniture. It is poised but relaxing, and came in pony skin and patent leather versions, among others.”

 

The Bridge – TV show set on both sides of bridge between Copenhagen, Denmark & Malmö, Sweden

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Oresund Bridge

I guess it’s becoming evident that I watch a lot of Scandinavian television. The Bridge (or Bron/Broen as it’s know in Scandinavia, meaning “bridge” in Swedish and Danish) follows a long murder investigation launched when a body—or, as it turns out, parts of two bodies assembled as one—is found in the middle of the Øresund Bridge that links Sweden and Denmark. In fact, the bisected body parts are carefully placed either side of the exact boundary between the two countries. Two detectives, one Swedish and one Danish, take the lead in the investigation. What follows is, among other things, an extended tour of Copenhagen and Malmö.

If you can ignore the increasingly common trope of the sexually attractive, socially and psychologically impaired, and intellectually brilliant female sleuth teamed up with a crusty male sidekick (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, The Killing, Homeland), you might find the show’s setting and narrative arc interesting.

I’m only concentrating on exteriors and interiors because this is after all a design blog and for any designer it’s hard to ignore the architecture, urban planning and interiors in Bron/Broen. It’s also enjoyable to see the sheer amount of IKEA involved; I have those water glasses. Do Danish detectives have better design sense than North American detectives do? Well, obviously.

It’s notable that there are only eight high-rise towers in all of Scandinavia, and most of them not very tall. There are only two in Sweden—one in Stockholm and the one in Malmö. Featured repeatedly in The Bridge, it’s Santiago Calatrava’s white Turning Torso. It’s Scandinavia, so it’s quality without quantity; the opposite of what we do in Vancouver.

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Kim Bodnia as Det. Martin Rohde

Kim Bodnia as Danish detective Martin Rohde in his house, with son.

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Sofia Helin as Det. Saga Noren

Sofia Helin as Saga Norén, Swedish detective from Malmö, Sweden, in Martin Rohde’s house in Copenhagen

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Sofia Helin as Saga Norén - screenshot

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) driveway, Danish house

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) exterior of house, Copenhagen

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Danish house exterior, with Kim Bodnia

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Danish wooden house

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Danish living room kitchen

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Turning Torson by Santiago Calatrava

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) Turning Torso by Santiago Calatrava, night

Calatrava's Turning Torso, Malmo Sweden

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) ocean and city

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) titles - Copenhagen's Little Mermaid

Statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbour. Vancouver’s Girl in a Wetsuit, located in Stanley Park, is an homage to the Danish original.

Borgen, popular political drama set in Copenhagen

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

BorgenCondos

Borgen is a Danish political drama sent in Copenhagen. Despite being a subtitled Danish show loosely based on complicated domestic Danish political events, it grew to unexpected popularity throughout Europe. Its protagonist is a prime minister attempting to hold together a fragile ruling coalition and trying to mitigate the ruination of her personal life. A central difficulty in the narrative is, not surprisingly, that the corporate media controls & often cripples political life. Journalists, who figure prominently, move seamlessly back and forth between paid political spin doctor and newscaster. What’s different about this show is that in both fields, politics and journalism, the main character is female.

Borgen also provides a window into Danish interior and urban design.

It was nice to see Danish modern in the formal political offices amidst the classical architecture. There are two Poul Henningsen Artichoke lamps in the prime minister’s office, extremely striking if it you’re not used to seeing them in a TV sequence. Or over a head of state.

Copenhagen proper with a population of 1.2 million is about twice the size of Vancouver but its metro area, at 1.9 million, makes it ultimately smaller. The city  contains no highrises and a dense concentration of low rises, old and new. Not unlike Vancouver it is land-limited, cut by water and criss-crossed by bridges. The largest of these bridges links the city to Malmo, Sweden. (See following post on The Bridge.)

Borgen -Poul Henningson artichoke lamp

Danish TV show Borgen

Borgen - kitchen at Marienborg

By the way, “Borgen is produced by DR, the Danish public broadcaster that has also produced another international Danish hit series, The Killing.” The Killing has been remade for the American market, set in Seattle but shot in Vancouver (on my block and in my immediate neighbourhood).

Borgen - view of Copenhagen over bridges