Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic 14.05.14

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Gas pistons control the bookends on Shelf (Image: Fabrice Gousset)

Konstantin Grcic's range of industrial-styled, piston controlled furniture shows that glass designs don't have to be delicate

For his latest exhibition at Galerie Kreo in Paris, German designer Konstantin Grcic has created a set of furniture that merges seemingly delicate sheet glass with the old school technological wizardry of pistons, hinges and cranks. Like a Breguet watch, the pleasure of these pieces is partly in being able to see the mechanics at work. The title of the exhibition, Man Machine, was taken from the name of an album by the German electronic band Kraftwerk. "I called it that to represent the meeting of the human heart and the machine," Grcic explains, "the mechanical precision of the pistons, the cold industrial aesthetic of the glass, with something that is softer, more emotional and more poetic."

With architecture, glass is often used as a signifier for transparency and openness, especially in municipal buildings. Yet with furniture design, the opposite is true, and glass is often seen as something dangerous and unstable. "Glass is not the most obvious material for making furniture," Grcic says. "Apart from being cold and heavy, there is a prevalent stigma about its fragility. But if you think about it, glass is one of the most commonly used building materials in contemporary architecture." Grcic collaborated with Glasbau Hahn, a traditional glass workshop in Frankfurt, to produce the chair, shelves, tables, chests and cabinet from the same float glass that is commonly used in architectural projects.

Rather than lifting a lever or pulling a lid to adjust an angle, the movement of each piece is carefully controlled by an industrial gas piston – "a kind of magic muscle", as Grcic calls it. On Chaise, the piston alters the position of the chair's backrest, and on Table_XL, four synchronised telescopic pistons allow the table top to be cranked up or down. The pistons on Crate, which is a large box, lift the glass lid, and on Shelf they push wooden blocks from side to side like sprung bookends. "The movement of the gas piston is controlled and precise," says Grcic. "It gives you more confidence to overcome the perception of glass – that it might break and hurt you."

Grcic, whose background is in industrial design, is best known for his many successful projects for brands, including Bench B for BD Barcelona Design (for which he won Icon's 2013 Furniture Design of the Year award) and the Traffic seating range for Magis. However, he says he enjoys the opportunity to be more experimental that exhibitions afford him. "When I make work for galleries, I'm still thinking as an industrial designer," he says. "But it's good to have the freedom to experiment and to try things that I would perhaps later like to see being developed on an industrial scale."

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On Chaise, the piston adjusts the backrest

 

 

Words

Crystal Bennes

quotes story

Glass is not the most obvious material for making furniture. Apart from being cold and heavy, there is a prevalent stigma about its fragility. But if you think about it, glass is one of the most commonly used building materials in contemporary architecture

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