SANAA Supersizes Chair Design for America

“Armless Chair” (l) and “Armless Chair (Wide)” (r) by SANAA

The politics of the American figure–we’ll say form–inspires numerous reactions here at home: some (wrongly) argue for the preservation of the right to poor life decisions, while others indicate the larger systemic social issues at play, advocating for new or amended policies not skewed toward some misplaced (and uninformed) libertarian ethos or influenced by corporate profiteering. Clearly, it’s a difficult topic to broach, yet one which has so singularly defined how we and everyone else perceives the shape of America. Case in point, these two chair designs by SANAA, one of which was intended for the Japanese market and the other for American consumers. It shouldn’t be difficult to guess which is which!

As A Daily Dose writes, SANAA’s “Armless Chair” and “Armless Chair (Wide)” were displayed this past spring at the Canadian Center for Architecture’s (CCA) current exhibition, “Imperfect Health“, which explored problems of health and medicalization through the lens of architecture and urbanism. Manufactured for Maruni, the pair of chairs share the same design scheme, with the back of the seat formed by two splayed “bunny ears”, each of which supports the back of the sitter while alleviating pressure on the spine. Only that the Armless Chair (Wide) is exactly that, wide, the proportions of the original being stretched horizontally to accommodate the American “other”. Still, this iteration looks roomier and probably more comfortable, something that you can slink into or even sleep in. The same can’t be said for the Japanese model, which looks too narrow to not keep the sitter on edge.

Imposing Right Angles on an Oscar Niemeyer Building

‘Su Mesure’ by FREAKS freearchitects

The straight line is an anomaly in the work of Oscar Niemeyer, whose entire career has been concisely described as a “personal struggle with the right angle”. As is well known, Niemeyer is a disciple of the curve, a fond admirer of the splined beauty [insert gauche, anachronistic reference to the “feminine” figure here] that characterizes nearly all of his hundreds of buildings and projects. This is not to say that the Brazilian architect’s baroque-modernist aesthetic is without a political dimension; to do so would be ignorant of Niemeyer’s personal politics (he’s a lifelong communist) and the collectivized spaces that mark his architectural and urban schemes (see the blank squares at Brasilia or even the recently shuttered Centro Niemeyer, massive intentionally featureless rostra where the public may gather unencumbered by the frilly obstacles posed by planters and shrubbery). His design for the French Communist Party in Paris combines both aspects of his person and talent.

The building, a favorite of the architect, follows a typical modernist formal scheme, with a large office bloc straddled atop an avenue of pilotis and foregrounded by a secondary structure that reconciles the complex’s scale and program to pedestrians. This being Niemeyer, both components diverge from the modernist template, replacing the latter’s ubiquitous rectilinearity with round, playful curves. FREAKS freearchitects‘ sticker installation “restores” order to the building’s evident capriciousness, superimposing x and y coordinates on its undulating facade.

Commissioned by the National Council of French Architects, ‘Sur Mesure’ (translate as “Bespoke”) was part of an architecture event called “Le droit à l’architecture” (“The right of architecture”), whose mission it is to promote architecture to the public. The project, which marks the first time the building has been altered or added to since being listed as a national historic monument, is a simple and fun intervention that both envigorates Niemeyer’s weathered landmark and, more importantly, calls attention architecture’s fundamental presence (physical or otherwise) in the public arena.

Progress Report: Warm-Up to Wendy!

All photos: HWKN

Wendy is coming. In just over two weeks time, “Wendy“, winner of the 2012 Young Architects Program, will open in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 primed for a summer of fun.  Designed by Architizer sister firm Hollwich-Kushner (HWKN), the project is notable for its creative approach to the ecological issues that contemporary architecture and urbanism now face, using some 28,000 square feet of ground-breaking fabric treated with photocatalytic titania spray to clean the air around it.

Construction began last month in the PS1 courtyard, with the erection of the scaffolding taking some four weeks to complete. Now in week 5, Wendy’s iconic starburst shape is coming into view, with the first of her 64 blue spikes being currently assembled. While she looks large, Wendy only covers a tiny fraction of the courtyard surface, with a planimetric footprint of just 3,120 square feet (out of 19,816 square feet). The porosity of the scaffolding and the intricate web of spikes create numerous public and intimate zones, all of which are shaded by Wendy’s multifaceted form and cooled by fans integrated in the higher registers of the structure above.

A performance platform will be set up facing Wendy where an extensive roster of DJ’s will take the stage for a season of Warm Up events.  The secondary courtyard north of the main space is being converted into a mini waterpark that will offer several fun water-themed attractions, including cascading pools, waterfalls, rain, misting areas, and water cannons (stored in a number of the blue spikes angled overhead).

Thousands of people are expected to meet Wendy this summer beginning July 1 and on through September 8, when the pavilion will be dismantled, its scaffold structure returned to a warehouse to be stored for future use and its nano-particle infused fabric recycled and parceled throughout the city’s construction sites. For more on Wendy, including how to volunteer or purchase merchandise, visit the project site.

All the Private Space You’ll Ever Need, In One Little Box

Everyone needs (or demands) their own bit of defensible space. In an increasingly urbanizing world with living conditions becoming ever more dense, that space may not amount to much. Still, the diminutive dimensions  of this private cloister (the smaller, the better, says the “good” urbanist) need not be boring, nor spatially simplistic. On the contrary, such limitations give birth to innovative new designs, like architect Sigund Larsen‘s “Shrine” project, a small wonder of cabinetry that maximizes style and function despite its negligible footprint.

Larsen says the design came from a need to store all his personal affects, from gadgets and keys to a record player and a bottle of whisky. It should be sculptural, yet fully operable, Larsen thought, impelling him to devise a cluster of adjacent, interconnected compartments that could collapse into a solid volume to save space. Using local oak wood, he fashioned the unit piecemeal, working out a complex configuration of internal “courtyards”, each of which could be accessed from the outside.

When opened, the resultant collage of projecting volumes and hinged spaces satisfy Larsen’s sculptural requisite, yet does not inhibit operability. Larsen  likens the pieces to a small house, one whose plan and section are “forced together” into a patchwork of drawers in which one can store all of their little (and big) secrets. So whether you live in a studio or a penthouse, the Shrine becomes “your most private place in the house.”

Sigurd Larsen // The Shrine from Dario Natale on Vimeo.

Rattan Funiture Collection by Hiroomi Tahara (JP)


Hiroomi Tahara recently launched a rattan furniture collection called ‘relation collection’. The structure is made of fine metal tubes, which give strenght and stability, combined with a surface woven with rattan. This method allows to create extraordinary shapes without molding.   See more images of relation collection on Architonic@Facebook   To Hiroomi Tahara’s website