15 July 2008

Naivety and Bluntness with Prouvé

Ensconced as we are in the digital aspects of our field, perhaps by default, I still find the physical touch of materials as the most rewarding, on building sites to smaller scale furniture production. It has been easy for us, located on Chrystie Street for 15 years, to stop by our Chinese welder to discuss steel sections, minimum bending radius for perforated steel or just for samples, on lunch break. Over the years we have steered our clients to trust our local neighbors to make stairways and other architectural pieces and not just their standard stainless steel kitchen cabinets. Finally, one month after moving our office further into China Town this spring, we had Chinese Standard Sheet Metal make a final furniture piece for us, combining local know-how (and a loving attention to fine deep embedded welds and polishing) and my long-held interest in early Jean Prouvé furniture. This would be a final send-off from the Lower East Side, deeper into the Far-East Lower East Side, where we have set up our new offices. I could never afford one of Prouvé pieces, even when I eyed them on Rue de Seine in the early 80's in Paris during my university years, but I felt is was time to have my own somehow, even if I was to make it myself. So here is my take on creating, retroactively, a signature Prouvé table - completely original as he never created a center support broken as a "floating link" as I did here but he may very well have wished he had tried. This table, the "Console" as we call it, clearly recalls the fine touch he brought to welded and bent steel: a "mixture of naivety and bluntness" as Konstantin Grcic would say.

It is held together with only four bolts at the center, allowing the glass to be sandwiched between the two end pieces in a very stable configuration. The legs recall more of Charlotte Perriand than Prouvé, triangular and tapering in profile, created by cutting an "L" profile along its length, rather than folding plates as would have been customary in the metal shops of Nantes in the 50's. In addition to our friends at David's General Steel, I owe thanks to our Swiss Intern Joshua for exploring the design in drawings and full scale models, before returning to ETH in Zurich.
The next step is to explore various finishes and a version in die-cast aluminum. Any takers?