Foldout Couch, Somewhere Between a Couch and a Spaceframe – Tyler Smith and Rebecca Braun
University of Michigan (Glenn Wilcox and Wes McGee)
It has always been the work of the designer to make sense of technological change, and to be in control of the perceptual effects new industry has on a culture. The radical architecture and furniture coming out of the 1960s, particularly in Italy, was a direct commentary on the age of mass production and industrialization occurring in Europe and America. By sampling form, color, material, and manufacturing techniques, architects and designers like Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini worked on challenging popular perceptions of familiar things and spaces through their designs. Their work positioned the designer as the interpreter of technological change, the means by which a culture could engage new technology. This project continues this line of exploration for the contemporary moment in the digital age, working through ideas of how to gain aesthetic control over digital fabrication techniques in service of producing a human response to novel assemblies. The design proposes incongruous relationships between materiality, technique, scale, and form in order to delay a clear perception of the 1:1 construction. By pairing the formal techniques of curved folding with rigid sheet stock, finished metal with pleather fabric, and domestic upholstery details with CNC machined parts, the construction references things and spaces beyond its immediate setting. Somewhere between a couch and a space frame, the project works on new opportunities opened by digital fabrication, considering strategies of recombination and diversification towards the production of a single object.