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The Future of Furniture

Furniture is a big deal in the design industry. A well-executed concept can result in a timeless piece of furniture that never goes out of style. With sustainability as a key factor these days, and climate change being a serious issue, choices even in design have started to reflect a more sustainable ethic. Consequently, it trickles down to furniture design. The result is creative, innovative, and practical.

Featured here are two innovative furniture designs: A Push/Pull furniture series which brings alive the simple design of pushcart into designer furniture; and the Paper Table which introduces us to a different characteristic of the common material – paper.

Push/Pull furniture series for Cornell University

Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning is unveiling a 12-piece versatile bespoke furniture series designed by Hong Kong renowned architecture office CL3 and award-winning interdisciplinary design studio Lim + Lu for the college’s New York studio.

The two design studios were invited to design pieces specifically for Cornell University’s space located in the financial district in Manhattan. When engaged by the Dean of the college for this project, the three thought it would be a great way to give back to their alma mater.

Lim + Lu noted that the pushcart is uniquely New York and has become an ubiquitous part of the city’s landscape. At every turn and corner, the pushcarts are transporting goods in, out, and around the city. Although it is inherently New York, the pushcart represents matters at a larger scale—globalization.

The design journey began by examining the inherent qualities of these pushcarts and how they are used on a daily basis. They are sometimes used in an upright manner and at other times adopt a more reclined position. This bipolar characteristic of the pushcart presented the opportunity to design a furniture series that could also have multiple personalities. For example, a piece that functions as a three-seater sofa in its reclined position may transform into a coat rack when it’s upright. When a piece is in one posture, one can notice subtle hints that it can be used in another stance. This exploration resulted in 12 pieces of multipurpose portable furniture.

Due to the bespoke nature of these furniture pieces, its context was crucial to the success of the project. William Lim of CL3 explains, “We always like to approach our designs within context. We blend an intuitive sense of light, balance and proportion with contemporary solutions and innovative materials to produce design that are versatile. That’s what we have done with this range: we have thought about the true purpose of the furniture. How it will become part of Cornell’s fabric, go beyond the primary usage, and spread out within the context it has been placed within.”

Vincent Lim of Lim + Lu adds, “This has been a fun journey. As alumni we have been peering back into our old school and thought what could we give back. Thinking back to our time as students and how we used the spaces around Cornell, to come together to share ideas. These have a nice function and form element to them, also to apply the Cornell crest to the structure adds a nice sense of pride.”

Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Cornell AAP commented: “Each piece is a hybrid; a modular urban element that functions as a kind of infrastructure, mated to a customized artifact specific to particular program. Taken together, they are a microcosm of Cornell’s famous lessons in college urbanism.”

Paper Table

Paper is a kind of materials with characteristics of both commonality and specialty. The designer, Li Xiao-Ming has turned the waste paper pulp into solid material through solidification treatment to make its strength as plates with plasticity and has a three-dimensional curved surface.

The nature of paper pulp has changed correspondingly from soft, light and thin to hard, tough and thick. The paper takes place of the wooden table top, with a soft form outside but solid inside. The difference between its visual impression and the inner character makes it an interesting complex where the designer redefines the nature of the product. The unique feature of soft table lies in excavating the special nature of paper in order to design it for the undulating shape. Its function is defined for taking a sleep or a snooze. The curves on the table top are in accord with the curvature changes of human body engineering. It is fit for the posture when people bend over the table and it is also for normal use.

The special function of paper table does not only reflect in its physical appearance, but the most important factor is embodied in its material particularity. For the visual perception, paper feels gentle and natural like cotton because it is soft, but for this product, the designer makes the paper table to be solid and load-bearing after casting.

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