Prize winning engineer and designer Kenye Dupont has a particular interest in the design of low-tech products where their simplicity often blocks innovation. This is incidentally one of the reasons that I like to look at tables, due to their simplicity, a particular design aspect can shine out. Kenye Dupont first studied science, that led him to work in the aerospace industry, which inspired him to go and study Industrial engineering. Subsequently he worked in industrial design which in turn inspired him to go back to school yet again to study art and design.
The Entre Les Lignes table has a tabletop of three layers of plywood, each separately slotted into a notch at the top of the table leg, they bend towards each other and join to make one layer of thicker ply. Not only does the joint speak elegantly of the nature of the materials used but it has had me looking at the way things pull apart and how that can be used in objects. So far I’ve come up with a note-book where the paper becomes papier mâché binding, and a tongue in lace up shoes that’s stripped up to become laces. I think I need a little more work on my ideas.
Here is another small table using reconstituted cork block. When I first saw these tables I stroked one just to check that they weren’t actually alive, since their wiggliness makes them seem more like they were grown rather than manufactured. Made of fiberglass and resin, the original model had an oak wood block placed in the crater on the table top. But now, this new version that I just saw on the Binôme stand at Maison et objet, has a reconstituted cork block placed in the crater.
There is something sort of ceremonial about how things would be placed on these tables. Perhaps the block is used as a sort of tray, or that’s where the cake or monopoly board is put, with cups of tea around the edge. It lends itself to a hierarchy of stuff. Or maybe, as I imagine would happen in may households, it just becomes a game of taking the bloc out and putting it back in again, just because you can.
The design editors Petite Friture were showing Basil, a little poem to lightness on their stand at Maison et Objet last week. It’s declined in three table shapes which are each subtley different according their form.
The table’s stand is white powder coated steel sticks that sit, crossing over each other over at the joints like a light bamboo structure. each table has different types of overlaps depending on it’s shape. The square table is symmetrical, with sticks that are either on top or below at both ends. The triangular table has sticks that overlap on top at one end and to the bottom at the other. Finally the circular table has cross bracing bellow like the triangular table, and a ring stick that holds the dropped in reconstituted cork bloc table top.
I was curious about the fragility of the corners of the reconstituted cork table top. When I asked it was explained that they are quite solid and and have been designed to be particularly resistant. You can see me lifting a corner up in one of the photos. When I observed more closely, I could see how these edges had been shaped to be more resistant, something which is the most obvious in the triangular tabletop which could have potentially had the weakest corners.
The cork block tabletop gives a great feeling of stability without sacrificing any of the light feel of these tables. It can be moved freely in and out, but it does need a human to deliberately lift it because of the way it’s mass hangs into the structure, so it won’t be knocking over as you brush by to fetch some milk for you tea . Because of how it’s pushed it’s design ideas further in it’s details, my favourite is the triangular table, yet I think having all three together in a light and airy interior would be the best home for the trio of Basil tables.
Ingress is an augmented reality game, that means that the game happens in real space, and the things that happen in the game are projected onto the real world around you, as opposed to in fake universe, so you have to walk around in the real world, anywhere in the world, to play it. The game is linked in with Google maps and played on mobile phones, originally it was exclusively on Android but it has been on iPhone for a few months now. The video below will give you an overview of Ingress which is play by two factions, the Resistance (in blue) that want to save the world from Alien energy that seeps into the world through Portals, and the Enlightened (in green), who erroneously believe that this dangerous alien juice is good for mankind. (I imagine you can guess which faction I belong to). Just watch the video.
In Berlin the c-base station is a favorite hangout for the strong Berlin Tech scene, this is where they often end up after a long session of playing Ingress about town. A while ago the coder Henri Bergius and his cohorts got together in a hackathon to build an Ingress table to hang out around after a session of play. It illustrates in real time the Ingress action in the neighborhood around c-base station, and acts as a station to recharge weary mobile phones.
The table is designed to fit at least eight people around it, which is the optimum number for a faction team. The map is not a screen but a real 3D model, a physical object with real lights, so it fits nicely into the virtual/real-stuff spirit of the game, and is frankly a more interesting design challenge that just sticking in a flat screen. This meant that there were three main design elements to be created, the coding, the light circuits and the physical table parts that support it all.
The makers got together for a weekend, they split up into three teams, the coding team, the light circuit team, and the table shell team, then knuckled down to work. After a long weekends work and an Ingress session capturing portals outdoors around the c-base station, they grabbed some beers, watched the table light up and sat around scheming their next moves to save the world.
Today in Normandy the heads of state of the World War II allied forces and the last few veterans are commemorating the seventieth anniversary of D-day, a day that changed the course of modern history.
Last week that I visited an exhibition in the Cité de l’Architecture at the Palais de Chaillot, Architecture en Uniform about the advances in architecture and design generated by the second world war. It clearly showed how World War II effected the built environment and design far from the front line. One particularly evocative type of space, so familiar to us in movies, was missing from the exhibition for me was the operations rooms so I’ve decided to make up for it and deal with it here.
In war films the operations table in the war map room is a familiar sight. Each major front or operation had it’s own situations room. An intense hidden space, that’s cut off from the word, with all the subterfuge of a basement night club. The dynamics of the fighting may have played out on the field, but the dynamics of the war were played out on the map room tables. All the intelligence about everything from weather to enemy positions, that were gathered by radar, radio or sightings, was channeled towards the situations map on the table which has an accurate position all the troops, little wooden blocks modeling thousands of men that were pushed around with rakes by smartly dressed wrens, almost like in a game but far more serious. These physical models of the battle field allowed informed decision as to how to maneuver in battle.
What happened on these tables controlled the lives of the men in the battle field, and the outcome of a war.
For Steven Spielberg the best set ever designed was the war room set from the Stanley Kuberic cold war satire film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, by set designer Ken Adams. I certainly don’t disagree.
People entered the set by a regular small door in the corner, to be bowled over by one massive, minimal cavernous space that was the war room. It’s triangular section meant it had a slopping ceiling so it was impossible to hang a light rigging onto it. The room was dominated by the round 6.7 meter diameter table, that seated 31 people, with a ring of lighting above the table which the only source to light the actors faces. All this was reflected in the pool like shiny black floor, creating a dramatic reverential space. Kuberic insisted that the table was covered with green baize, the fabric used cover poker tables. Even though it was to be filmed in black and white, he wanted to create the atmosphere of a poker game for the actors.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” President Merkin Muffley underlined that the talk-shop around this green table was the real battlefield, in a war that was fought with psychology rather than weapons. As in the point made by Dr. Strangelove about the nuclear bomb, “The whole point of the doomsday machine…is lost if you keep it a secret!”.
This space became so mythical that when President Reagan moved into The White House he wanted to see the War room. When he was told that there wasn’t one he replied that he thought there was, having seen it in Dr. Strangelove.
While walking down rue Stephenson a while ago with the photographer Elena Perlino (In photo), I spotted a dumped 1950’s table in the street. I pulled it out from where it was half hidden to show Elena, as she could have been interested in taking it. She kind of hesitated and weighed it up and I looked a little closer too. On noticing that the wheels were rusted spotted and the veneer was chipped I started humming and hawing that it perhaps wasn’t such a great find, when at this moment, the guy in the photo came up. He was enthusiastic and if we weren’t taking it this table was definitely his baby. So I said to Elena that it wasn’t really worth it after all, and since he’s so bowled over by it let him have it.
So the guy went off delighted with his new old table, and I think it has a good home where it will but poor Elena, within a minute she realised that she loved this little table but had let it go. Now, weeks later, she still regrets letting it go. I’m afraid I can’t get the table back for her, I wish I’d encouraged her to keep it, though it’s too late now. But I can give her this post to remember it by, the nostalgia of something that nearly was. Sorry Elena, the next feral table that I find is yours.