Steven Holl Architects
The Challenge: How do you “lighten” furniture?
Research and Solution: The concept of porosity has been a favorite point of exploration in the buildings of Steven Holl Architects, so applying that concept at the scale of furniture seems like a natural progression for the firm. The Riddled Furniture project not only examines how to design and fabricate perforated furniture using the CNC milling process, it also uses a new four-ply composite material ideal for CNC milling. The form of each object is intended to showcase the best properties of the innovative surfaces.
The furniture is playful in its approach to geometry and space. For example, five perforated boxes snap together to form the Riddled Cabinet. Each component influences not only the shape of the whole, but also the shape of the adjacent box. The overall cabinet is minimal in form; handles and hinge joints are incorporated directly into the CNC process, eliminating the need for applied hardware. Another item, the Riddled Table, casts shadows and reflections around itself as light permeates the glass top and filters through the closely folded base.
The four-ply composite material that the architects chose to use is itself an interesting innovation. Developed by an Italian supplier, the material has a core made of a proprietary cloth and paper composite, topped by cross-laminated piles of wood veneer. This material offers several advantages over a laminate with a conventional sheet-metal core: There is no need for special tools, and it has a much slimmer profile, only 1.8 mm. The material is flexible enough that it can be bent in the field, but strong enough to support itself in furniture applications.
The jury was impressed by the tailoring of a fabrication process to showcase a new material (though one juror wished this process was discussed more in the submission). The jurors equally appreciated the design team's facility with—and innovative use of—the CNC milling technology. Also of interest was the way the milled surface relates to the furniture's overall shapes and forms.
“What's of interest to me,” said juror Eric Owen Moss, “is how they put together languages that are not often put together in that way. The designers of this project are making very specific choices about function, intention, and space.”
PROJECT Riddled Furniture
ARCHITECT Steven Holl Architects, New York (Steven Holl and Nick Gelpi, design architects)
MANUFACTURER Horm, Italy