With their latest idea, UK-based design duo Max Frommeld and Arno Mathies sought to tackle some of the practical problems associated with a traditional Alpine activity
RCA graduates Max Frommeld and Arno Mathies have followed up the award-winning flatpack boat they unveiled in 2012 with a design for a sled that folds to half its size when not in use.
Made in solid ash wood and plastic, the sled is made using both traditional woodworking techniques and modern computer-controlled cutting. It folds down its middle, with the two elements that support the shape when it is in use swivelling to sit neatly along its centre when it is being stored or carries. Frommeld told us how the design came about.
ICON: Sledding is quite a geographically specific activity. What led you to work on a project like this?
Max Frommeld: We both grew up close to the Alps. Arno is from Geneva in Switzerland and I am from Ulm, Germany. In those regions, the sled is an object of immense cultural value. Around the turn of the century, the sled was one of the most important Alpine transport vehicles during snowy winters. Today, the "Davos" sled, a leisure vehicle, is a term recognised worldwide and is deeply rooted in the cultural image of the Alpine region.
Arno and I met while studying at the Royal College of Art, where we began working on a series of design products that fold flat after attending a paper-folding workshop together. That was when our first big collaborative project started: Folding Boat, a rowing boat for two people that folds into a box. That was nominated for the Federal Swiss Design Awards in 2013. After that, we collaborated with commercial clients to develop, test and produce a series of flat-pack design accessories for the automotive industry.
Folding Sled was a natural progression from the Folding Boat and deals with many of the same issues – space efficiency, storage and transport – and uses the same plastic hinging principle and materials.
ICON: What specific problems did your design seek to solve?
MF: Traditional sleds are very cumbersome objects. We all know that a sled is a seasonal object, which is only used occasionally, so we wanted to design a sled that improves and considers the following requirements: storing it when the sled is not in use; transporting it efficiently in a tightly packed car; and travelling with it on airplanes. And at the same time, we didn't want to sacrifice performance. Ultimately, we intended to create a sled that performs very well on snow.
ICON: In what way does your design reference traditional sleds?
MF: Folding Sled is a hybrid. It bridges the gap between a family sled and a racing sled. It is suitable for both. Besides that, we wanted to reference traditional sleds such as the Davos family sled, which has been made purely out of wood for a century. The way traditional sleds are made hasn't changed much over the years.
With the Folding Sled we wanted to combine modern manufacturing techniques with traditional craft. We worked with a wonderful Switzerland-based family business, which has produced traditional wooden sleds for more than half a century. We think our expertise in plastic hinging technology, in combination with traditionally steam bent wooden components, form a unique and innovative product which reflects the time and age we live in.