September 9, 2013
David Adjaye’s Washington Collection for Knoll™, the architect’s first foray into furniture design, is lauded in the September 7, 2013 How To Spend it issue of the Financial Times. The piece celebrates the Knoll 75th anniversary with an in depth look at three new furniture collaborations from Knoll.
Financial Times writer Lucia van der Post notes, “Pushing boundaries and exploring the future” has always been a guiding principle for Knoll, which is currently working with “two of the world’s most-courted and visionary architects – the Dutch-born Rem Koolhaas and the British-Ghanaian talent David Adjaye.
“I was worried because I’m not a furniture designer and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” Adjaye says of being asked by Knoll design director Benjamin Pardo to design an iconic chair that had staying power.
“Whereas many furniture companies are more about fashion and trends, Knoll is about evolution, about where it’s going in the future and also it’s about longevity,” Adjaye notes. “I liked the fact that Knoll said unless I truly loved it, there was no point in doing it.”
“It started off as a plastic chair and I was thrilled by that – for me plastic is as lovely as marble, steel or timber,” shares Adjaye. Adjaye realized that the plastic design could be extrapolated to make another in aluminum. “When you look more closely you see that one is the skeleton and one is the muscle.”
"The result is that design lovers can buy a chair designed by one of our foremost architects and made to the highest technical standards for $300, or $490 for aluminum,” notes van der Post.
“It was almost shocking to me that I could encapsulate the DNA of my thinking into a piece of furniture,” says Adjaye.
The Collection continued to grow and now includes a lounge chair, a low table, including a limited edition of 75 pieces in cast bronze, and an aluminum table.
Commenting on the Knoll collaboration with Rem Koolhaas and OMA, Andrew Cogan Knoll CEO says: “We always work [closely] with designers, as everything has to chime with the DNA of Knoll,” says Pardo.
“We saw Rem as very established and well-known and David more as an emerging talent, which seemed a great balance,” says Knoll CEO Andrew Cogan.
The Tools for Life Collection, designed by OMA, previewed at the Prada fashion show in January before its official debut at Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan in April.
“I wanted to work with Koolhaas because his work breaks down boundaries, and we were looking at furniture that would be flexible and could work in a domestic as well as an office setting,” says Cogan. “I appreciated his honesty and the fact that the relationship between his buildings and his interior spaces always seemed well organized.”
After setting aside his firm’s “so-called principle of not being involved in [small-scale] design” Koolhaas went on to design Tools for Life, a series of 11 pieces that are purposely mobile and adaptive – what Koolhaas calls mutable and changeable” and what Pardo describes as kinetic.
Koolhaas tackled Cogan and Pardo’s assignment to “create a environment rather than simply design a product.”
The 04 Counter, arguably the collection’s “most striking piece,” is designed to shape space. “Once people discover that the object moves, they want to engage with it, gather around it. When the top two beams start to rotate, the wall beings to dematerialize and people are able to walk through a space that was, seconds ago, occupied by a massive solid object,” notes Pardo.
The 05 and 06 Tables, with their “industrial-looking bases,” as well as the 01 and 02 Chairs, can be “raised or lowered at the push of a button.” The collection also includes an acrylic coffee table that swivels and extends, “a baseless-floor seat and a modular bench.”
“It’s a highly technical, beautifully engineered range, designed to help ride the boundaries between work and social life. The collection is revolutionary and is designed for performance.”
A new collaboration of sofas, armchairs, tables and stools with Edward Barber and Joy Osgerby is also featured. Scheduled for release in 2014, the collection “embodies the language and iconography of their work,” says Pardo.
Although perhaps most often associated with the iconic designs of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia, Marcel Breuer and Eero Saarinen, these “three very fine, innovative and even provocative design teams” continue the Knoll tradition of working with cutting-edge designers, notes van der Post.
Though today these classics “seem so established, so internationally renowned, almost all were innovative in their day, exploring new methods and materials such as metals, plastics and laminates as they arrived upon the scene,” she adds.
Find The Washington Collection for Knoll™ now at knoll.com and at the Knoll Home Design Shop in New York City beginning in October.