August 14, 2023

From Raw to Refined: The Application of Concrete in Furniture Design

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: design Category: magazine

From Raw to Refined: The Application of Concrete in Furniture Design

A material with a history dating back thousands of years to 1400-1200 BC, concrete has evolved from a simple composite of aggregate and fluid cement into the cornerstone of modern construction. It ranks as the second-most-utilised substance globally following water, and stands as the most common building material today. From Le Corbusier's pioneering application of "béton brut" to the emergence of New Brutalism in the 1950s, the 20th century saw architects harness the full potential of the inherent qualities of concrete. By using its structural integrity and aesthetic adaptability to sculpt powerful forms that fused functionality with raw artistic expression, they reshaped the architectural landscape. The architectural application and distinctive visual and tactile qualities of concrete have inspired a host of applications of this material in the realm of contemporary furniture design. In homage to this remarkable material, we take a closer look at unique furniture pieces whose concepts both embrace concrete as a structural material and concrete as an aesthetic.


Brutus © 101 Copenhagen

Brutus / 101 Copenhagen

Drawing inspiration from the mid-20th century Brutalist architecture movement, the Brutus collection is crafted from lightweight fiber concrete in a hand-painted finish, which creates a unique surface texture without sacrificing the mobility of the pieces. Designed by the founders of 101 CPH Kristian Sofus Hansen and Tommy Hyldahl, the star of the collection is the Brutus chair. By finding a balance between the sharp architectural lines of the base and seat, and the curves of its back and armrest, the result is a sculptural statement that aims to provide seating comfort.


Concrete Melt Chair © Bower Studios

Concrete Melt Chair

The Melt Chair, a limited-edition piece by Brooklyn-based design studio Bower, merges art with design. Originally conceived for The Chair exhibition by The Future Perfect, the Melt chair was inspired by an ancient Egyptian chair. Crafted first in marble and brass and now reimagined in concrete and chrome-plated brass, the chair's evolution showcases Bower's innovative approach in creating a piece that “infused some of the culture's magical qualities by exploiting the contrast between true properties of material vs. perceived properties shaped by form”. The chair's melting formation around a metal base intentionally subverts material expectations, imbuing a solid, uncompromising material with the unexpected softness and layering of soft-serve ice cream. This playful approach creates an arresting visual and functional experience that defies conventional furniture design.


Aplomb © Foscarini

Aplomb / Foscarini

Aplomb serves as a testament that effective design doesn't always require complexity. Paolo Lucidi and Luca Pevere wanted to create a piece that balances between architecture and design. In doing so, cement was their material of choice, because of its raw, yet versatile and expressive nature. According to the designers, getting the right consistency and perfecting the manufacturing process took two years, making it a rather complicated process, while the end product feels both uncomplicated and impactful, highly expressive and tactile—a far cry from the impersonal and cold minimalism often attributed to concrete.


Hauteville Chair © Lyon Beton

Hauteville / Lyon Beton

During the tuberculosis epidemic of the nineteenth century, the town of Hauteville in Eastern France housed several sanatoriums devoted to the care of tuberculosis patients, which now remain abandoned. While exploring one of these buildings, designers Henri Lavallard-Boget and Julie Legros found an old resin chair from the 1950s. This discovery prompted them to embark on a series of experiments. The outcome of these endeavors materialised as the Hauteville chair – a chair made from concrete, while its legs are crafted from rebar that melds with the seat during the molding process. A source of pride for the designers lies in the chair's unexpected lightness, defying its outward appearance.


Tobi-Ishi Outdoor © B&B Italia

Tobi-Ishi / B&B Italia

The Tobi-Ishi table draws inspiration from the symbolism of the substantial ornamental stepping stones of Japanese gardens, representing balance and cohesion. Departing from the conventional table structure characterised by four legs or a central pillar, designers Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby innovatively incorporated vertical trapezoidal supports. This unique approach results in a table that exhibits a dynamic appearance, transforming as one's perspective changes. Italian manufacturer B&B Italia produces the piece in a variety of materials, including a concrete version suitable for outdoor use.

August 14, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: design Category: magazine

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