World War II War Room Tables.


Battle of the Atlantic operations room

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.



Battle of Britain Bunker, RAF Uxbridge


The Sector Operations Center at RAF Middle Wallop


Imperial War Museum reconstructed 1940 Operations Room, which directed aircraft in the Battle of Britain.


06. June 2014 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Culture, History and Stories, Irregular | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Ken Adam: Dr Strangelove War Room Table

Dr._Strangelove_-_The_War_RoomFor 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.

WarRoomModel.DrStrangeloveModel of the set.

08. April 2014 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Culture, History and Stories, Round and Oval | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Elena Perlino’s Lost Table

IMG_5426While 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.

01. December 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Culture, History and Stories, Side tables | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Benjamin Kicic: Tilt Top Table

The symbolism of archetypes and materials is a principle interest of American Croatian designer Benjamin Kicic.  In this case it’s a contemporary interpretation of an american revival interpretation of a Rococo table. Not only is it’s form an image of  an image, but it’s manufacturing process is too. First he made a wooden version of the parts of the table. From that he cast them in wax, then the wax was wrapped in carbon tow cable. The wax is subsequently melted away leaving a table mad from wire echoing of the original form.

I suppose you could go on to say that these photos are another layer in the representation of this table, and this blog post another layer again. But the layer the really interest me though is how the packaging for transport will be designed. Will that be another table, Perhaps in cardboard, echoing the original?

25. November 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Café Tables, Metal, Side tables | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

David Adjaye: Washington Corona™ Coffee Table

cn_image_1.size.david-adjaye-knoll-cocktail-tableI just discovered that a friend from my class in architecture school at The South Bank in London, the soft spoken David Adjaye, has designed a table, the Washington Corona Table. It’s made from four pieces of sand cast bronze that are dark and rough on the outside, and bright and liquid shiny on the inside. Inspired by his key new building, the Washington Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture, it is part of Vitra’s Washington collection in a limited edition of 75, and selling at €50,000 to celebrate 75 years of Vitra.

This table was more about a personal expression for Adjaye than creating a functional object, purely expressing materials and forms that interested him. The four panels visually bulge inwards, whereas the weight moves out to the corners where the panels are joined, creating an expanding tension.  As is often is the case the element that is the main event, in this case the four bronze panels, are not the same as the element that sets it’s tone, in this case the thick crystal table top. It’s edges are chamfered as a continuation of the panels below. This crystal top allows you to read it as a high end luxury item, to be respected as a very deliberate framed sculpture, not some clever reusing of some seventies found panels.

It’s been quite a few years since we’ve sat round the same table together, but the idea of writing a post about his table bought back memories of sitting around other tables. Adjaye was the person who showed me how to use oil instead of butter on my bread in Chartier on rue Montmartre, and other memories, such as the fact that Adjaye is the only person I know who looks fantastic dressed in yellow. But perhaps for the world in general one of the most important memories the way he would discuss his college projects while they were reviewed, certainly he’d always created a series of beautiful spaces, but his words were all about the person using the building and light.

29. October 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Avant-Gard Tables, CoffeeTables, Glass, Metal | Tags: , , | Comments Off

“My table is now brightly, now dimly lighted. It’s temperature varies. It may receive an ink stain. One of it’s legs may be broken. It may be repaired, polished, and replaced part by part. But, for me, it remains the table at which I daily write.”

Ernst Mach 1838-1919  Austrian physicist.

22. October 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
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Stefan Leo: Half Table

StefanLeo3I usually love seeing the work of Stefan Leo’s company Atelier Peau d’Ane for their contemporary take on art deco craftsmanship, all hammered iron and shagreen. But this time it was something different and clever that caught my eye. Their own work table was a bronze topped half table, propped up against a mirror, so the refection completed the other half, very subtle and very cool. As they cleared all their stuff off it for me to photograph it, they explained how they had wanted it to be a bigger table, as the smaller sized table that they had room for just looked cramped. So Stefan decided to make half of a bigger table and to place it up against a mirror to create the illusion of a big symmetric table.

He showed me all the effort they went into smoothing off the welding on the steel legs, he wasn’t happy with the finish because he’s super perfectionist, but honestly it takes a super trained eye to notice any roughness. I reckon they also saved themselves a lot of time and money, because of the level of finish that they expect in their work. Wouldn’t it be useful if magic mirrors could work in a workshop, so as when you work something on one side of a piece in front of the magic mirror the other side would automatically be worked too.


20. October 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Metal, Multi purpose/dining tables, One Off Design, Rectangle | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Rick Owens: Black and Bronze Low Table


Rick Owens, the American clothes designer who lives in Paris, creates work that is like Yoji Yamamoto’s but with the rock and roll, oversized luxury and caveman dials turned right up on full blast. He’s now extending this drop dead cool universe with furniture. Currently presenting his new ‘Prehistoric’ (oh the irony), collection which will soon open in the London branch of the Carpenters Gallery.

Materials are given a massive XL treatment, so you become very conscious of their patina and texture. There is a lot of bronze and a lot of black, a look rocked by this monolithic coffee table. Technically it’s almost impossible to have such a thin sheet of metal  rigidly kept in place as it just sits on it’s black wooden blocks. The surface is so shiny that you can’t really make out the screws, (unless you lean in close and take a photo like I did). The beam that it’s screwed onto, goes from block to block under the centre of the bronze sheet, and also has a reflective bronze surface, so you don’t really perceive it’s depth, even when looking at it side on. The two blade like sheets of bronze show their polished bronziness in different ways because of where they are on the piece. The bottom sheet, shielded from the direct light, has a rich warm golden hue, like a gilt lined box. The more open top sheet reflects it’s environment, the light and the colour, and also the smudges and the finger prints which are the texture of  it’s nonchalant lived-in-ness. But this is the kind of lived-in that’s in reality more about abandoned trendy arts reviews than a freshly killed stag that needs cutting up.

Rick-owens-2 Rick-owens-1 Rick-owens-4

10. September 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: CoffeeTables, Metal, Wood | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Wessel Van Offeren for V-lab


These side tables are magical, and a great answer to the question as to whether you’d prefer square or round side tables. I’ve only just seen them at “Maison & Objet”  (a professional interiors fair in Paris). they are so new that they aren’t even on the V_Lab website yet.

There is an successful cultural mix to the tables, the sort of mix that defines the popularity of mid-twentieth century furniture. It corresponds to the style and origins of the company V_Lab. Something old yet contemporary, found yet newly made. V_Lab is owned by the children of the antiques firm Versmissen and they grew up around an eclectic mix of furniture and were buying pieces on family travels from a young age. They are located in Eindhoven, one of the great world centres for furniture design. Which is where the designer Wessel Van Offeren is located.

The thin tabletop that seems to float, is beech lozenges organised parquetry style. It has a 3D box effect, like parquet flooring, at the same time graphically abstract and a reference to ancient carpentry techniques. This has a transparent top coat which gives it a resin feel, yet with the natural grain of the timber, less than a millimetre below this transparent layer, you know it’s real wood and this is not like a sixties wood-look Formica cheat. The bent steel legs come in a range of colours, I would love to have seen a darker green in the mix but maybe that will come in later years.

The loveliest thing about these tables has to be the way they jig-saw in together to form a larger coffee table out of several side tables. Not always a successful idea with square tables, as in practice you never have time to line them up perfectly, so there are unsatisfying irregular gaps. With these tables though the little cracks of differing widths that happen when you regroup the tables beautifully add to the design, accentuating the character of their pattern.

vlab3vlab2 SMH20130906_18

08. September 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Irregular, Metal, Side tables, Wood | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Heerenhuis: Lars Zech

LARS-ZECH-3Heerenhuis again, all the Heerenhuis tables have little variations depending on how the nature of the materials differ, but the Lars Zech has more than the others, as it’s Italian walnut tabletop edges are left naturally irregular, the number and position of the legs changes so it won’t move about. I love this, as it makes choosing a table more like choosing a puppy. It’s sort of different from the rest of the litter even though they all seem kind of the same, and even though others may find it’s hard to tell them apart, you will know your own from every angle.


08. September 2013 by Susie Hemsworth
Categories: Irregular, Metal, Multi purpose/dining tables, Wood | Tags: , , | Comments Off

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