Knoll recently introduced a new collection of furnishings from David Adjaye, the architect who teamed up with Phil Freelon, Max Bond, and the Smith Group to design the Smithsonian’s Museum for African-American History and Culture, now under construction on the Mall in Washington D.C. We interviewed David Bright at Knoll about the new collection:
Why David Adjaye?
In order to celebrate our 75th anniversary, CEO Andrew Cogan and design director Benjamin Pardo wanted to work with some of today’s most innovative, promising and provocative talents. In their estimation, that meant Rem Koolhaas of OMA and David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates.
Knoll design director Benjamin Pardo said, “David is doing really innovative and important architectural projects, and what really interested us was to see that work on an entirely new scale.” As Andrew Cogan put it in the Financial Times (“Knoll of Honour,” Financial Times, September 15, 2013): “We saw Rem as very established and well-known and David more as an emerging talent, which seemed a great balance. David is the first architect from the African continent that we have ever worked with, and that was exciting to us.”
Benjamin Pardo continued: “The fact that David got the Smithsonian commission was interesting, but I’d also admired a lot of the private work he’d been doing, such as the way he uses light as a foil to the geometry, so that he highlights and dematerializes the surfaces and volumes of his interiors. I also like his use of materials and it was his use of light to transform spaces that attracted me to him, and convinced me he could work on interior objects in the same way. His buildings are challenging yet appropriate, and they seem to take one further into the future.”
What’s included in this line?
Included in the line are two cantilevered side chairs, the Washington Skeleton™ Chair and the Washington Skin™ Chair, as well as the cast-bronze Washington Corona™ Coffee Table, and a forthcoming club chair, side table and ottoman.
What kind of materials?
The cantilevered chairs, with their unique leg design, are available in two materials: die-cast aluminum (Washington Skeleton) and reinforced nylon (Washington Skin). Like complementary inversions of each other, the aluminum chair is reduced to a fine geometric lattice while the nylon chair offers a colorful envelope to the same form. The aluminum chair is available in ultra-durable outdoor paint finishes or copper plated. The nylon chair is available in seven colors for indoor use.
Adjaye’s coffee table, The Washington Corona™ with a clear glass top is constructed from four cast bronze panels, and connecting plates. The roughhewn exterior contrasts the highly reflective, hand polished interior surface. To mark its 75th anniversary – celebrating pioneering modernist vision to bold contemporary design – the bronze Washington Corona coffee table is limited to an edition of 75. Each piece is numbered and comes with a bronze miniature that serves as a commemorative signature plate. A geometric club chair, ottoman and side table, available early 2014, complement the expressive organic lines of the side chairs and the cast bronze coffee table. Contrasting faceted laminate and upholstered planes create a dynamic texture.
What’s the intent of these product designs?
David Adjaye: “The Washington Collection is an investigation into form, materials, balance and weight. I wanted to create furniture that is both playful and beautiful – appearing light yet also expressing monumentality.”
With the Washington Skeleton and Skin chairs, Adjaye was inspired by ideas of pattern, twinning, form and structure, prop and cantilever, Frank Lloyd Wright even. The geometry came out of the engineering.
Who’s the target audience?
With a wide range of price points, there is something in the collection for everybody — for the workplace or the home.
Where will these be used?
We think of the Washington Skeleton and Skin side chairs as completely versatile: from cafes (indoor and outdoor) to cultural and institutional settings, to around the home and dining table. The Washington Collection for Knoll brings Adjaye’s architectural and sculptural vision into accessible objects for the home and office.
Challenges in manufacturing?
As with all of our products, the Washington Collection demanded great collaboration between the Knoll Product Development and the designers in order to tool these products to perfection and make them flexible, comfortable, able to withstand outdoor conditions (in the case of the Washington Skeleton Chair).
As Adjaye recalled, “Sometimes what you think will work as the final product becomes an investigation – a kind of experiment. You know instantly that it ultimately won’t work, but it is part of the story and I have a real delight in the samples, the mock-ups and the sketches. It is an amazing luxury to be able to manipulate and sculpt – at full scale – as you go along. This is something you can’t do with buildings.”