NYC Design Focus

NYC Design Focus

Sitting Pretty
Frank Gehry: Emeco and Heller


Taking some time off from titanium, Frank Gehry has been dabbling with some new materials. Collaborating simultaneously with two notable furniture manufacturers, the blockbuster architect has created distinctly different designs. For Emeco, he has designed the all-aluminum Superlight Chair, which is super-strong, super-flexible, and super-comfortable. Inspired by Gio Ponti’s Superleggera Chair, Gehry’s simple design, a bent sheet draped on tubular frame, weighs in at 6.5 pounds. Since both skin and frame are light and slight, there is no way around his straightforward intent that "the sitter activate the chair." Productions experts at Emeco, best known for its indestructible aluminum Navy Chair, enjoyed the challenge of making the material as light and flexible as possible while maintaining its strengthhthree times that of steel. For those interested in collecting a set, the Superlight is stackable in an unconventional sense: the skin/seat unclips from the frame and can be piled, like Pringles potato chips. The chair will retail for about $350.



Gehry’s line of furniture for Heller, meanwhile, is almost the inverse of Superlight in appearance. Ultra-sculptural and monolithic, the seven-piece collection follows both the heft and curving fluidity of his recent buildings, while referencing their materials. Heller’s founder and CEO Alan Heller touts the line as architecture as furniture,, pointing to the recognizable shapes and lines carried over from projects like Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall. Made of metallic silver resin, the roto-molded sofa, easy chair, bench, coffee table and three different sized cubes are designed to be used either indoors or out. The sleek surface of the hollow forms has been formulated so that the sofa and the easy chair will have more give than the twisted cube units. Heller explained that both the company and the architect were very interested in process and working with the newest technology to determine what you can invent, just as Frank does with his buildings..

Both Emeco and Heller displayed prototypes of Gehry’s designs at Milan’s 2004 Salone Internazionale del Mobile, and will present them at ICFF. The real articles will be available to design-hungry consumers this summer.

A documentary on the design process of the Superlight Chair, Ping Pong by Eames Demetrios, will be shown on Friday, May 14th, at 8:30 p.m. at the Center for Architecture, 536 La Guardia Place.
Tracey Hummer is a New Yorkkbased writer and editor.

Show Pieces
Harry Allen, Sergei Hasegawa, and Magne Magler Wiggen:
ICFF Commissions


For the past several years, the organizers of ICFF have commissioned hot designers to spruce up the 110,000 square feet of the Javits Center during the four-day event. This year, in addition to displays by 450 exhibitors, visitors will see a newsstand designed by New York industrial and interior designer Harry Allen; a bar by industrial designer Sergei Hasegawa of Brooklyn-based pure-kitchen; and the ICFF Connector,, a passageway linking showroom floors, designed by multidisciplinary design firm Magne Magler Wiggen (MMW) of Oslo. Allen’s newsstand, a bulbous 16-foot-tall, 18.5-foot-wide heptagonal pavilionndubbed the iglooo by his studioowill be constructed out of expanded polystyrene foam panels Allen spotted at Home Depot. He picked the panels for their high strength-to-weight ratio as well as their humble origins as wall insulation. The form followed the material and the function,, he said. The structure needed to have six stations for magazine sales reps to interact with the public and a door to get inside, hence the seven sides.. Allen’s construction methods were also straightforward. The panels are light enough to be hand-carried through the front entrance and structural enough to require a minimum of joineryyonly tape and biscuit joints will be needed for its assembly.

Meanwhile, Hasegawa has designed a bar with a countertop made of Richlite, a paper-composite board with a high recycled material content. The board is sturdy enough to be used in boats and skateboard ramps. Hasegawa’s design incorporates a curved surface, echoing a skater’s beloved halfpipe. MMW took a jet-set prefab approach in its design for the ICFF Connector. The firm created a white wormlike form made of fabric and ringed with orange pneu-matic pipes. Shaped by air pressure, the three-piece structure knocks down easilyyso easily, in fact, that the designers report that they will transport the structure’s three pieces from Norway in their personal luggage. The special textiles workshop of outdoor clothing manufacturer Helly Hansen provided the materiall a watertight canvas typically used for offshore diving suitssand will fabricate the structure’s sections. The project’s concept derives from Per Gynt, Henrik Ibsen’s play about travel,, said Hallstein Guthu of MMW. Each of the structure’s three sections has a sound and lighting theme inspired by the play.

Raising the Roof
Graftworks: West Village roof deck

Architecture morphs into furniture in a roof renovation by Graftworks Architecture and Design, a New York firm founded in 1999 by Lawrence Blough and John Henle. The architects skinned the 1,100-square-foot roof of this West Village brownstone with strips of cedar slatting that peel up to form a hint of a canopy and curvy chaise lounges. The same slats continue toward the roof’s edge, twisting out to conceal planters and to offer a subtle safety barrier. Blough and Henle arrived at this strategy as a way to avoid cluttering the small terrace with traditional porch furniture. For Graftworks, the deck’s ruled surfaces relate to the city’s skyline typology, specifically to the slatted wooden water towers that perch upon roofs across Manhattan. The deck surfaces look like they’ve been unfurled from vertically sliced water towers,, said Blough. The contents of the towers also plays into the design: Water sprays through wood slats at various points, providing a cooling mist just in time for summer. DG

Feel the Burn
Maarten Baas: Smoke

In past years, furniture at ICFF has been available in a range of flavorsscotton candyycolored, crunchy granola, spicy and Brazilian, stark and Swedish. This year, add BBQ to the list. On May 16th, Moss in SoHo unveils the exhibition Where There’s Smoke, a solo show of new works by 26-year-old Dutch designer Maarten Baas who takes modern classics and burns them to a crisp. The series at Moss will consist of furniture from several time periodssbaroque chairs from the 18th century to 20th-century chairs by Gerritt Rietveld, Charles and Ray Eames, and Isamu Noguchi. The chronological journey continues with a Memphis shelf from the 1980s by Ettore Sottsass, works by Droog Design from the 1990s, and the 2002 Favela Chair by Humberto and Fernando Campanaaall pieces Baas considers seminal in his education. Moss acquired each piece to to be subjected to Baas’ hand-torching and epoxy-coating treatment. Sounding almost Loosian, the Eindoven-based designer explains that the burning is his way of stripping away ornament and returning an object to its original function. If I burn away the ornaments, the structure will still [function as a] chair,, says Baas. By rendering such perfect objects imperfect, he diminishes their hands-off preciousness and brings them closer to their true purpose, as common tables and chairs. When [these pieces are] thrown on the fire,, said Moss, they release energy and propel us forward.. While it remains to be seen whether Baas’ blackened works are modernist interventions or pyromaniac obsessions, Smoke is sure to get people all fired up.  ANDREW YANG IS AN EDITOR AT PRINT AND WRITES ABOUT ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

Wonder Woman
Dune: 12 New Works

Dune, a contemporary furniture design collective founded in 1996 with a showroom in Manhattan and a manufacturing studio in Brooklyn, will introduce an all-female line-up for its 2004 collection, Wonder Women. The ensemble, on view during the ICFF at the Waterfront in Chelsea (formerly the nightclub the Tunnel), will feature furniture by a mix of 12 accomplished designers and architects.

Winka Dubbeldam contributed Cumulus, a smoky acrylic coffeetable with translucent storage compartments for everything from magazines to fruit to wine bottles. Laurinda Spear of Arquitectonica designed Hollow Bed, a light and airy molded fiberglass form. Architects Victoria Meyers and Emanuela Frattini Magnusson will also unveil pieces for the collection, along with industrial designers Eva Zeisel, Lauren Leon-Boym, and Matali Crasset.  DG