The random element

Most designed products are refined to the point where the creator decides the product is as near to perfect as costs and material will allow.  It may have taken weeks, months or in extreme cases, years, to arrive at the final shape and dimensions and most designers will not let go of the resulting design without a fight.

Then there are another type of designer entirely, whose excitement comes not just from manipulating an objects shape, texture and finish but also from accepting an element of randomness – something outside of their control.  This can be added to the design through a material’s natural qualities or through some part of the process like firing in ceramics or oxidizing in metals.

On the outer edges of the love of randomness are works where the whole point of the concept is to allow the design to develop it’s own unique shape, colour or dimensions. In this post I have included two high tech examples that use sampled sound and rapid prototyping to achieve this end. A third example is almost as low tech as furniture making gets - a brew of sawdust and natural resins react to form an expanding goo and adheres itself onto a timber frame work to form a chair. The final concept involves growing your own furniture using vines that follow a lightweight metal framework. Like most gardening, it’s slow but rewarding.

Noize chairs

In 2012, architect Guto Requena partnered with Galeria Coletivo Amor de Madre to create the first Nóize Chairs, made by combining sound files with CAD files of three classic Brazilian chairs - Sergio Rodrigues’ ‘Oscar’, 'Sao Paolo' chair by Carlos Motta and the 'Giraffe' chair by LIno Bo Bardi. The mash ups of the chairs are produced using rapid prototyping technology and become an expression of the history of Brazilian furniture collided with contemporary urban life. Like a shattered piece of carbon, the new chair is full of jagged edges that defy the carefully controlled lines of the originals.

You can view a nice video of the concept hereOr see more on Estúdio Guto Requena 

Sound Plotter

Design studio Shapes in Play was founded by young German designers Johanna Spath and Johannes Tsopanides in 2011. Their Sound Plotter project involves the sampling of noise or voices and creating a file that is blended with the original objects CAD file (in this case a vase) the result is then produced by a 3-D printer in either white or grey. Each vase is therefore customizable or indeed totally random if preferred. Every silent room will create a different surface texture to the vase while loud sounds will create more extreme horizontal shifts. The individuality of each persons voice will be reflected in the vase even if reciting the same phrase. Creating an object that reflects an individual persons voice and preferred phrase could be as easy as doing a remote recording on a computer then sending the file back to Shapes in Play for them to merge and send to a local 3-D printing facility but at this stage the design studio isn’t interested in selling vases - just exploring the concept.

The Well Proven Chair

A freshly made red version of the ‘Well Proven’ chair on the work bench. Photograph by Petr Krejci

The ‘Well Proven’ chair may not have a high tech bone in its body, but the design does guarantee a totally unique and random result each time one is made. The project was initiated by Royal College of Art graduates, Marjan Van Aubel and James Shaw. The designers were researching into the use of timber waste products from furniture factories when they happened upon an interesting chemical reaction between saw dust and a particular bio resin when water is added. The material becomes a growing mass of ‘goo’ that solidifies and adheres itself to timber particularly well. The result of this discovery is the ‘Well Proven’ chair that uses an archetypal timber base in ash as the structure upon which the mad concoction is ‘grown’. Using a generic plastic seat shell as the formwork the organic mush is applied and its bubbling growing mass forms a seat in a matter of hours. The internal face is smooth from the plastic seat while the back is completely untamed. The duo has experimented with various naturally occurring dyes that only add further to the variations available.

Chair farm

Werner Aisslinger launched his ‘Chair farm’ project at the Berlin Trails exhibition at Ventura Lambrata in 2012. The concept is as simple as it is radical - a chair produced in an agricultural Lab. The idea was that rather than ‘producing’ a chair or a table in a factory somewhere - with all the power, materials and emissions that entails - a piece of furniture could be grown in a greenhouse or a field instead. When it reaches maturity, the steel ‘corset’ is opened and removed, revealing a naturally grown object. The piece of furniture can remain rooted to the spot or be cut so it can be moved around. It may not be as comfortable or quite as practical as a standard outdoor furniture design but it will certainly sit naturally within the context of a garden. ‘Chair farm’ puts a whole new spin on the term ‘wicker’ furniture.