Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interactive Bench Bookshelf

This project evolved from a project I had worked on during my freshman year in Architecture school. The project involved creating a bench for two people designed such that it could be broken down to fit into a large shoe box. As with all of my Architecture projects, the bench also had to be designed with a concept in mind. One of the things I have always found fascinating about working with wood is that more than any other medium, wood has its own memory (See 'stump clock' to come soon). You see it in both its rings and knots, as well as the way it wears. From this I focused on a structure that required interaction between the two people and the bench itself. Hence the "teeter-totter"-esque shape of the bench you see in the prototype below.

I used cherry for the legs and walnut for the seating slats. The light red of the cherry and the dark hues of the walnut created a contradiction that "emphasized the structural elements as the signature aesthetic" (I learned to master BS in Architecture school). The leg supports consists of varying lap joints with 1/4 inch bolts. The walnut slats have fixed splice joints to allow them to be connected to the leg supports. Both the cherry and walnut components were finished using tung oil. By the time my final presentation came along, I could assemble the bench in less than ten minutes. Though it was chosen as a finalist and was shown at a gallery show in Belgium, I never could find a practical use the bench at home. After four years of collecting dust in the attic, I decided the wood was too beautiful to not be showcased in my then furniture-less apartment. It would need, however, to be converted into something more practical:

I decided on a bookshelf/nightstand as it would be an easy transition from the current structure. I found an old 1/2 inch pine board in my father's basement and cut it into six shelves of two different sizes. Orienting the bench leg supports vertically and using stainless threaded rod for additional support allowed for a floating shelf feel. I used the walnut slats to beef up the base of the shelves and for backing behind the shelves. It was tricky to place the drill holes correctly, but a small mdf template and a lot of trial and error got the job done. I really liked the mixture of modern fasteners and traditional woods with the bench, and adding the threaded rod and bolting only added to the aesthetic. I left the pine shelves unfinished because I found their roughness and unfinished coloring to go perfectly with darker wood components on the rest of the bookshelf. While this is in not your typical reclamation project, the bench project was likely bound for the dumpster without this recreation. Here are a few more photos:


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