WAM万物 at Beijing Design Week 2014

This year I participated in Beijing Design Week with my furniture brand WAM万物.  The showcase was set up in a small courtyard along Yangmeizhu xiejie in Dashilar. Together with my colleague Wula I wa finishing the 'Untitled' chair on site by weaving the polypropylene straps onto pre-made ashwood frames painted in corresponding colours. As a spatial intervention we created a light canopy using the same straps, suspended from one wall of the courtyard to the other in a random pattern. For the design week we made an edition of 22 chairs in six different colours. Aside from the normal side chair we also made two new models for the occasion, one slightly wider armchair and one even wider and lower lounge chair. Both seemed to be generating a lot of interest so they will most likely become part of the 'Untitled' collection.

In general we got a lot of visitors to our little off-the-main-track-courtyard; our location as the first exhibitor as they entered the yard gave us a lot of exposure, but we didn't succeed in selling any of the chairs during the week. As a first attempt at going public with WAM万物 it was still quite successful in generating publicity.

More information about the 'Untitled' chair can be found here.

 

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IFP at Beijing Design Week

Don't miss IFP's shows during the design week. There is a lot going on around town but this is an antidote to the flatness of most of the design week programme. For some thoroughbred art and alternative design, come over, open your senses and stay for a while. More info at blacksesame.org

 

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In progress: Black Sesame

I am currently renovating a new space for art and design, located next to IFP Studio in Heizhima hutong 13. The space is shared between IFP, WAM/万物 and Here & Now Studio and will be used for exhibitions, installations, workshops and alike. The official opening will be some time in June. Below are some snapshots of the current state of renovation:

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Table and chairs for WAM

  I have completed a new set of table and chairs for a client in Beijing. The pieces are prototypes but will be developed for production in the next few months.

EastWest

The table is called EastWest and echoes the architecture within which it will stand; one of Beijing's best preserved Qing dynasty courtyard houses in Heizhima hutong, just North of the IFP Studio. The name is also a reference to a book When East Meets West by Werner Blaser which draws parallels between the work of modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and traditional Chinese and Japanese wood architecture. The table is made in pinewood, also frequently used in Japanese furniture, treated with wood oil and white pigment to keep the wood from turning yellow with time. The legs protrude the table top in the shape of crosses, which helps increase the contact surface between the top and the legs, as well as referencing Mies frequent use of the cross in building elements.

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Untitled

The chair Untitled is a simple dining chair made from solid wood, with the seat and back in nylon bands, normally used in clothing, bags and accessories. The entire frame is made from square profile ashwood, drawing inspiration from Donald Judd's minimalist furniture and Sol Lewitt's grid structures. I have adjusted some of the angles to provide more comfort for everyday use, and tapered the bottom of the legs to make the chair look lighter. The bands making up the seat and back are wrapped around the wooden frame several times in an ad hoc manner, to give a more complex texture to the chair. Compared to a wooden seat and back, the bands adapt to the body and allows for longer-term use.

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Omni table now in production

After spending the last four months in Sweden I have found a producer for the Omni table and it is now in production and sold through the furniture shop OLSSON & GERTHEL in Malmö. The table top is make in solid oak and comes in three finishes: Black stained, white oiled or natural soap treated. Black painted steel frame. More finishes and sizes coming soon.

You can order the table here, free delivered in Sweden, please contact OLSSON & GERTHEL for information about overseas shipping.

Junkitecture and wood SUV's

This text was originally posted on the blog of the upcoming workshop I am currently organizing in my studio, starting next week. Through the collection of reference projects, I have come across a few very interesting practices, and here is one of them:  

The work of German duo Köbberling Kaltwasser address a very contemporary issue with sophisticated social criticism and humour. Through their remodeling of redundant commodities: turning scrapped cars into bicycles, raising self-made pavilions from debris on empty lots in Berlin, and building a temporary theatre out of disused woodboards and pallets, they are seemingly interested in the processes of consumtion and its environmental impact. But this is not an idealist practice with a "save-the-world" approach. The issues they address also reach beyond the idea of reuse.

As an artist-architect couple, Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser also deal with sensitive ideological aspects of their own native country of Germany. By building full-scale models of Audi and Porche SUV's, they are poking at something deeply embedded in the identity of the engineered German society: Despite its ability to solve serious problems, most of the engineering ingenuity goes into creating advanced metal monsters for consumption with giant's appetite for fossil fuels, eating up valuable land in our cities.

Below a few of their works:

Musterhaus (Model House), Berlin 2006

Built on a green area of the Martin Gropius Bau premises in Berlin, the Musterhaus (Model House) is a one-family prefab model house. In its cube shape it rather resembles the T-Com House, a hightech house which a manufacturer of prefabricated houses has put on show in central Berlin to advertise the delights of suburban life. In contrast to this, we have made the Musterhaus from materials that are widely available on Berlin’s streets, disused lots and building sites: bulky scrap, used materials, random finds and construction waste. We put these production cycle rejects to new use and imitate the cultural technique of direct, sustainable, user-based recycling which is primarily practiced in the southern hemisphere. The Musterhaus brings the globally prevalent concept of informal building, which has also characterised the recent urban development of Istanbul, to the heart of central Berlin. The Musterhaus, just a stone’s throw from Potsdamer Platz, forms a marked contrast to the Berlin monoculture of block buildings and the rigid plans for the city’s urban development.

 

 

Jellyfish theatre, London 2010

Built from locally sourced discarded materials by 100 volounteers during the summer of 2012, the Jellyfish was used as a theatre for the Red Room Theatre Company. Seating 120 and featuring a lounge, dressing corridor and backstage area, the creation also created quite a lot of PR for the theatre, igniting discussions about the Themes South Bank area in which it was placed.

 

Crushed Cayenne (2007)

 

Spring Festival workshop 2012

From January 30 to February 12, I will host a workshop in our studio in Beijing together with architect Jordan Kanter. The workshop will investigate the nature of the hutong as a public space through reiterative analytical processes, with the aim of introducing architectural intervention(s) in the city. We will also host a number of lectures during the course of the two weeks.

Below a short introduction:

 

ITERATE workshop 2012

This workshop aims to create new perspectives for activating, illuminating and informing new meaning to the everyday spaces of the city.  Working in the neighborhoods, streets and hutongs of Beijing, we will identify and define ongoing patterns of use, materializations and micro-topologies as a catalogue of the urban experience.

Using a variety of computational tools, including the KML language in Google Earth and the Processing coding language, we will develop techniques to operationalize this data as dynamic diagrams.  These diagrams, in turn, will guide and inform a series of interventions back into the public space.  The process is inherently iterative, alternating between observation, activation and evaluation of the intervention, constructed with new or reconfigured material on the site.  The computational diagrams function as a mediating framework between these modes of work by charting and informing the interventions as an ongoing emergence. The first part will be a series of exercises familiarizing ourselves with the site and the scripting tools, proceeding to the formulation and execution of rigorously conceived, team-based projects engaging (physically, virtually or both) the public space of Beijing.  It will culminate in a review by an outside jury and a public showing (and possible publication) of the work.  A lecture series exploring the relationship of public space to politics, individual agency, computation, art and architecture will coincide with the workshop.

The workshop is open to architects, artists, planners, geographers, engineers, programmers and students of the above or other disciplines; anyone interested in exploring the intersection between design, computation and public space.

Instructors: Max Gerthel (SE) (KARCH, Tsinghua, HUST) Jordan Kanter (US) (Sci-Arch, Tsinghua)

Lecturers: See the workshop blog

Software: Processing Google Earth KML Rhino/Maya

Date: 2012-01-30 - 2012-02-12 Location: IFP workspace in a Beijing courtyard near Nanluoguxiang Cost: 2000 RMB for students 2500 for professionals

Apply by sending a brief portfolio (max 10 MB) to: hutongworkshop2012@gmail.com

Find more information on the workshop blog

Organizer: Institute For Provocation (Beijing)

Supporter: Huazhong University of Science And Technology (Wuhan)

 

IFP Sessions No 1

In the past few weeks I have been planning a lecture series hosted by Institute For Provocation, the art organization with which I share my studio space here in Beijing. The lecture series we call IFP Sessions is a public event and a contribution to the wider discourse on art, architecture and design in China. For each session we invite someone to present their recent work, followed by a talk with other invited guests. Our ambition is to create a forum for artists, researchers and designers based in or visiting China, to share and discuss their work. Last Wednesday we hosted a lecture by Brendan McGetrick who is a writer, editor and curator, to present his work as curator of the exhibition Un-Named Design at the Design Biennale in Gwangju, Korea. The exhibition was initially a collaboration with Ai Weiwei but following his arrest in April, was carried out by Brendan as chief curator together with Michelle Liu, Naihan Li and a group of students from the Oslo School of Architecture. The lecture was followed by a discussion with artist Tudor Bratu (currently in residence with IFP), art critic Mia Yu (PhD researcher on Chinese art at McGill) and architect Anu Leinonen.

Brendan's essay about the project for Gwangju biennale can be read here.

Below a few photos from the session. The next IFP Session will be on Nov 30 when architect Jordan Kanter will present his research on Tiananmen square and Mao symbolism.

 

I like Chopin

My ears are ringing a bit after I just spent half an hour playing with the game above. Just click on it and you will get hooked. I tried everything: Geometric patterns, Tetris shapes, stacks, letters...it all sounds great. And my leg started jumping up and down in the first minute. Found on Prejka, it originates on this site. Great work!

It's amazing when you realize how easy it can be to make music, as long as someone (tech-savvy musician) has set up the game for you to play. And because music is all about intuition, there is no way of going wrong.

Above is just one of the patterns that came up. Making it made me think about how I was alternating between thinking of the pattern and the music as I was playing. Sometimes it sounded better, but then the pattern was slightly irregular, but when I built a regular pattern, it didn't sound very interesting. Makes me think about architecture and the way we as architect often try to reduce and refine our drawings until they become regular and "correct". If it was music, it would probably be very boring to listen to. This makes me came to think about a lecture I attended this summer, with a Jan Henrik Hansen, a Swiss architect living in New York who has started to transform music into spatial objects; sculptures and patterns.

If the most interesting music is irregular, how come we keep defining irregular architecture as flawed and unfinished. I guess you need to be a master to master irregular and ambiguous space. Taking the example of a real master, Álvaro Siza Vieira builds in a modernist tradition using white rendered walls as his main material, yet he never reproduces the regular grid. The buildings always have irregularities and variations which make them pleasing to the eye in the same way you might enjoy Debussy rather than a regular scale.

Finally, a new song (Feist cover) from a young man whose music I am really enjoying at the moment:

James Blake - Limit To Your Love

Chance

Yesterday a long awaited book was finally delivered to our door: CHANCE from the series Documents of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2010). Compiling texts on  20 or so conceptual artists that all have worked with the unpredictable as a main driver of the work, the book narrows down the concept of chance to a few - shall we call it - case studies. The most reoccurring artists Marcel Duchamp and John Cage fail to surprise me. Needless to say, the importance of the former is monumental. The fact that Duchamp held an all-embracing attitude towards chance is perhaps the most prominent aspect of his work. Cage, on the other hand, is still quite unknown to me, and I am looking forward to getting a broader sense of his works and impact. For my part, the concept of chance remains quite important. In the projects I have developed in the past three years I have left part of the design to chance with, shall I say, mixed, but predominant success. It is with this in mind that I aim to look deeper into the art(y) references to understand the potentials of chance as an ingredient in an architectural exploration.

Below are some images from my thesis project LINE-POINT-FIELD where I used a Drawing Machine - essentially a table with a number of acrylic plates and a projected mounted at the bottom -  to distort and reproduce my original drawings. As a strategy to achieve a level of complexity that would be difficult to design, this tool did what I wanted it to. Bringing the table into the photo lab, I allowed the force of light to play a role in the process. Despite not using the drawings directly in my project, the logic related to the drawing machine became very important for the further conceptualisation.

The Table

It's been more than one year in the making. Perhaps not one year in the process, but I started sketching on it late 2009, then went for a long break before the design was finally settled a few weeks before christmas. And we also had it delivered on christmas eve, but the lacquer had barely dried and apart from having thumb marks and dents all over, I got a headache from the fumes after a few minutes, so it was immediately sent back. This time the finish is still not up to my normal standards but I guess we'll have to find a real carpenter to build the next one. Anyhow, now we have a workspace worth mentioning. And tomorrow it will be wired up so we can plug our chargers in the small compartment in the centre while only letting one single "tail" supply the us with all the power needed. The design comes from a long line of studies of different strategies and shapes. Already last year when the apartment was under construction I felt that this narrow space needed something organic to break it into smaller pockets and defy its sense of depth. It started with a few triangular designs but in the end I had to find a balance between using length of the room and making it more efficiently used. The shape of the top is made by a freeform spline, and I used grasshopper to provide measurements for the base.

Seating 7-8 people, I hope it will also be big enough for our daily agglomerations of computers, books, speakers, notebooks, napkin holders, wallets, mobiles and random electronic devices. Measuring roughly 200x118 cm, it should be enough for two.

Apart from it being very functional with its little compartment inside the top, I enjoy the table's sculptural qualities,

If you are interested in the table or another customized one, contact me.