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A combination banquette and shelving system gives a young family a new way to live in a 620-square-foot apartment.
Corian has become a darling of the digital fabrication set, its reputation as a dowdy countertop material giving way to explorations of the acrylic as a shape-shifting wonder with practical applications, from healthcare environments to art installations. For a couple that had nearly outgrown a 620-square-foot Murray Hill apartment, Corian served handily in the form of a new banquette and shelving unit that allowed the family to grow into the space, rather than move out of it. The project’s designer, su11 architecture + design, hired Brooklyn-based Associated Fabrication to create its vision of a functional sculpture that morphs from bench to windowsill to storage space.
Associated began by deconstructing su11’s seamless form, taking into account everything from material constraints to the width of openings in the clients’ building to create optimally machineable segments. In the mock-up phase, the team selected the area with the most complex geometry to establish base constraints for molding and finishing the pieces. Using Mastercam software, they CNC-milled molds and template guides for each section. These were used to thermoform the sheets of 1/2-inch glacier white Corian that make up most of the unit. During the thermoforming process the sheets were shaped around double-sided molds or with a silicone press at a temperature of about 350 degrees.
The molded parts were trimmed and matched to neighboring parts, then seamed together with Corian and attached to a plywood substructure in sections. Once on site, the team secured a plywood frame to the apartment’s walls and floor, then assembled and sealed the sections together with more Corian.
“Corian is probably the material that’s most similar to the anti-material that you design with on the computer,” said William Mowat, one of Associated Fabrication’s founders. The unit reads as a continuous form thanks to a careful three-day process of sanding the seams between sections to achieve the transition between the Corian and walls. The system provides seating, a heating unit cover, and a display space and headboard all at once, without the bulk that furniture for each of those functions would add to the tiny apartment. The 10-foot-long banquette is about 2 feet deep and the 12-by-10-foot shelf is about 13 inches deep, keeping almost all of the floor space clear.
In place, the piece allows the space to function as two rooms, giving the clients an area to eat and lounge with their two young boys during waking hours, and transforming it into their bedroom at night, when small slits in the underside of the shelving reveal LED lights underneath. The matte Corian is also easy to clean and fingerprint-proof, the perfect solution for a bustling and growing family.