Milan 2013: architect Rem Koolhaas has unveiled a collection of rotating, sliding and motorised furniture for US furniture brand Knoll (+ slideshow).
Designed by Koolhaas' architecture studio OMA, the Tools for Life collection includes a table with a top that rises and falls at the press of a button, a chair that can be adjusted in the same way and a counter made of three swivelling stacked blocks (above and below).
Koolhaas said: "We wanted to create a range of furniture that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways, furniture that not only contributes to the interior but also to the animation."
First glimpsed on the runway for Prada's Autumn Winter 2013 menswear collection back in January the collection, unveiled today at Fondazione Prada in Milan, has been launched to coincide with Knoll's 75th anniversary.
Above: swivel armchair with red button to adjust height
Two height-adjustable tables and a swivel armchair are powered by an electric motor and can be raised or lowered by pressing a large red button.
A low coffee table comprises three transparent acrylic boxes that slide apart to create cantilevered shelves, while upholstered cushions provide casual floor seating and a "table pocket" stores small objects.
Above: height-adjustable table and chair
Although not shown in these images, OMA has also designed a screen made from panels of foamed aluminum, travertine or wood laminate, a modular bench, another glass table and a height-adjustable stool.
Above: coffee table
Tools for Life will be on show to the public at Fondazione Prada at Via Fogazzaro 36, from 9 to 10 April.
Above: adjustable table
The collection was previewed during a Prada menswear show in January, and the fashion house has collaborated with OMA a number of times in the past, including on a shape-shifting pavilion in South Korea and a design for experimental exhibition spaces in Milan – see all Prada projects.
Above: table pocket for storage
We're in Milan this week covering all the highlights from the design week, including Zaha Hadid's monochrome pendant lamps for Slamp and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec's installation of cork carousels – see all news and products from Milan 2013 or take a look at our interactive map featuring the week's best exhibitions, parties and talks.
Photographs are by A.Osio, courtesy of Knoll. Here's some more information from Knoll:
Knoll, Inc. introduces "Tools for Life," a new collection of furniture by OMA, the collaborative practice co-founded by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in 1975. Knoll tapped Koolhaas, one of the most provocative thinkers and daring form-makers of his generation, to help mark its 75th anniversary. With this collection, Koolhaas joins Knoll’s pantheon of modern masters, which includes such figures as Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen and Frank Gehry. "Tools for Life" offers a contemporary interface between furniture and people, supporting the ebb and flow of work and social life, while adjusting to the different needs of both.
The collection will be on view during the 2013 Salone Internazionale del Mobile at Prada’s Milan exhibition space at via Fogazzaro, 36, where the pieces were first previewed during the Fall Men’s Show earlier this year. Public exhibition hours are 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10.
Commenting on the endeavour, Rem Koolhaas said: "We wanted to create a range of furniture that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways, furniture that not only contributes to the interior but also to the animation."
At the core of the collection is Koolhaas’s belief that furniture should be understood as a high-performance tool rather than a design statement.
"I want to talk about work and not the office — the distinction being that today people work everywhere," added Benjamin Pardo, Knoll design director. "With that in mind, the OMA pieces are more kinetic than static: many are easily adjustable so that with changes in height, adjacency and degree of privacy, almost any space can be transformed to a place of work."
The simple, no-nonsense palette makes the furniture compatible with a range of residential and workplace interiors. Clear acrylic is juxtaposed with concrete; glass with leather; travertine with steel—beguiling and engaging contrasts that draw attention to individual pieces.
Horizontal "Tools for Life"
The dynamic 04 Counter is the collection's signature piece. Beginning as a monolithic stack of three horizontal beams, the user can rotate the top two beams and transform this wall-like unit into a series of shelves and cantilevered benches—a metamorphosis from a spatial partition to a communal gathering place. Rigorous engineering and a system of internal bearings and rails facilitate 360 degrees of movement. Patterned wood grain and leather surfaces provide unexpected and subtly sensuous contrasts.
For individual focused or group collaborative work, the 05 Round Table and 06 Table integrate mechanical sophistication with seemingly effortless effect. Both can be adjusted to accommodate lounge seating or even standing. The 05 Round Table features a travertine top with a travertine base or an acrylic top with an aluminum base. An exposed mechanism, powered by an electric motor, elevates or lowers the table.
Conceived as an executive desk, the 06 Table has a two-piece laminated glass top. The two horizontal surfaces, one a work surface and the other intended for storage, are separated by four round, glass columns.
The 03 Coffee Table is a stack of three transparent boxes constructed of clear acrylic. Internal slides allow the individual elements to be rotated and cantilevered, giving users the ability to adjust its overall shape depending on changing needs.
Seating "Tools for Life"
Comfort and privacy are explored in the collection's two primary seating pieces: 01 Arm Chair and 02 Arm Chair with high back. The 01 Arm Chair is a height-adjustable, swivel lounge chair with a clear acrylic exterior frame and leather interior upholstery. A mechanical column base with a signature red band provides height adjustment at the touch of a button. A concrete base plate grounds the chair. The 02 Arm Chair with high back has the same features, while offering uniquely flexible interior cushioning that when unfolded provides an enveloping privacy.
Adding to the selection, the 11 Floor Seating, featuring simple upholstered cushions, provides alternate seating heights for work, reflection or relaxation.
The 07 Bench and 08 Perch round out the seating options. The modular bench, made of interconnecting and corner blocks, can be adapted based on user needs. A mortise and tenon mechanism locks the blocks in line; a selection of materials allows for seemingly endless combinations. The 08 Perch is an adjustable stool with an internal gas assist mechanism. Featuring an upholstered seat, the Perch consists of three cylinders; the top and bottom cylinders are wood; the middle one is acrylic. Offering height adjustment from 19 to 30 inches, the Perch accommodates different work requirements.
Ancillary "Tools for Life"
The 09 Screen can be used to partition specific zones within an overall open space. A base of clear acrylic supports panels of foamed aluminum, travertine or wood grain laminate that can be cantilevered off-center.
The 10 Credenza serves as a complementary piece to any and all of the horizontal table elements by providing storage pockets that are accessed by a hinged lid.