Joe Lambke Designs Animate Objects

The idea, says Chicago architect Joe Lambke, is to create objects that are not only beautiful, but that enrich his clients’ lives too.

He does it with furniture laser-cut from cold-rolled steel – in a way that liberates him from off-the-shelf, standard products.

“At IIT, I had a professor from Cranbrook, and I saw this technology,” he says. “I realized you could design furniture with it, and experiment and learn, and later use it for staircases, building canopies, trellises and handrails.”

He calls his firm Animate Architecture and his furniture line Animate Objects. Among the pieces he’s designed are a dictionary stand. It may seem obsolete in an age of swipe-and-read Internet access, but it’s not.

“It’s a subtle reminder, a teaser about the power of words,” he says. “It’s an inverse of the podium – a single-user piece that you approach from the front. You walk up and look up a few words.”

And it sells well, primarily as an impulse buy in a local showroom.

Then there’s the conversation table, developed first for a design and planning firm. “They wanted the ability to collaborate in an informal office,” he says. “We said it would be nice to have drawers that are visible but kept dust-free, for markers, cards and things people use when they’re conceptualizing.”

He’s working on a similar project for a public relations firm, one that’s averse to clutter. The strategy is to keep things clean, with drawers chock full of items that might be useful in a conversation, but not at all out of sight.

“Because of the glass surface, you can see everything through it,” he says. “It prompts thought and encourages conversation.”

That seems the point for much of his work. He creates objects that are not necessarily placed front and center, but that are dialog-starters. They may recede into the background, but they’re noticed because they’re beautiful.

“It’s a two-way street,” he says. “It supports the conversation like a good meal in a restaurant – if it’s really good and the service is excellent then the conversation is enhanced so that richer ideas can be discussed.”

Which leads to the goal of creating a richer life.

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