At first this image looks like a sketchy line-drawing of a chair. Multiple, wavering lines of varying thickness trace the outlines of the object. It is, presumably, an early doodle for a new piece of furniture, lacking substance, refinement, and any notion of materiality.
This is no sketch, however, but an actual chair that is sized to the human body and capable of supporting a person's weight. Created by South Korean designer Jinil Park, the chair is a piece from the aptly-named "Drawing Series" collection, which was on display at the Gwangju Design Biennale in South Korea last fall.
Park stumbled upon the idea while sketching on paper. She became aware of the aesthetic appeal of her strokes, and realized that the lines themselves would make provocative 3D pieces.
To construct the series, she employed steel wires of different gauges, hammering on the wires to impart sketch-like curvature. She then welded them together at their intersections (a process that doubtless required tremendous patience). The convergence of multiple "lines"—like emphasis in drawing—gives the pieces strength, despite the fact that individual wires could not support a person's weight.
Park's creation may be part of a broader trend to connect 2D and 3D realms, or more precisely, the design process (2D) and the realization of so-called final works (3D). In Sketch Furniture by Swedish design studio Front, for instance, the designers create 3D objects by drawing in mid-air, and the company WobbleWorks developed the "world's first 3D printing pen," called 3Doodler. Will architecture be next? Soon we will see the world's first "sketch pavilion" emerge in the form of a seemingly immaterial, gravity-defying structure.
This sketch-actualization method raises new theoretical implications. In particular, we are reminded of René Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" painting of a pipe, with the inscribed words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe). In this piece, Magritte set out to emphasize the decoupling of an object and its representation. A materialized sketch such as Park's chair, however, elicits the inverse response—we must declare "This is not a drawing." (This is disputable, since one may employ the definition of drawing to mean an act of production rather than representation—fodder for many future theoretical debates.)
So what does it mean when an artifact of the design process becomes the design itself? This approach calls into question the nature of the design process in general, or at least reframes it. For works that integrate rapid prototyping, iteration no longer occurs in the attainment of creating a single piece, but in the actualization of multiple pieces from individual sketches. Although scale remains a challenge for the application of this method to buildings, the process is already shaping the production of architectural models, and will likely soon affect the creation of mock-ups, assemblies, and other full-size components, which will benefit from more expedient delivery methods.
Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.