Freia Achenbach's ‘Spectator’ mirrors animal and human mannerisms
The Big Spectator shelf mims the form of a four-legged animal
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach
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Freia Achenbach's ‘Spectator’ mirrors animal and human mannerisms

The Spectator collection, an ongoing pre-pandemic project can be assembled to form larger shelves and cabinets in the desired shape.

by STIRpad
Published on : Jul 20, 2022

Standing in stark contrast against inanimate minimalistic objects that dot today’s market, Freia Achenbach’s amorphous Spectator series carries the unique quality of breathing life into the space it adorns. Built like a puzzle waiting to be unravelled, the shelves imbue their surroundings with a fun energy. Both the process of its assembly and the regular task of populating its crevices offer a chance for some exciting handiwork. The fluid storage spots on each elemental piece comes in a different shape and size, sometimes with a deep see-through nook and sometimes with a shallow indentation meant only for decoration. Shaped in a manner that offers ample space for storage, these organically shaped objects can serve the purpose of a shelf, a seat and a decorative totem. The series, part of an ongoing furniture design collection, is created by German designer Freia Achenbach, and launched under her design studio anima ona, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Achenbach, known for constructing objects and spaces that are experimental, uniquely produced and conspicuously visible, stacked each piece to appear like a live entity – sometimes like a human peeking through the gaps and sometimes like an animal, ready to take off for a run – standing in a corner and scanning the happenings around them, much like a spectator. “By recognizing the faces in the object, the role between subject and object is reversed and the shelf is moved into the position of the observer,” says Achenbach, explaining the role-reversal that happens when one views objects from the Spectator series for an extended period of time.

Spectator Shelf Image: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach
Close up view of Spectator shelf Image: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach

Its amorphous shape fits well against interiors that are sharp as well as organic, helping soften the edges in the former and blending in with its soft curves in the latter. This family comprises five different shelves, namely the Spectator Shelf, Big Spectator, Single Spectator, Spectator Twins and Single Spectator II. Composed using the same organically shaped elements, each of them comes out in a different visage. Consequently, the different pieces carry varied and unique personalities.

Big Spectator shelf Image: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach
Single Spectator as a small table Image: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach

The elemental pieces that make up these lively shelves are crafted using sand and foam, and finished with a coat of resin. Its surface, thus, has a shiny glow that washes over its pastel white surface. While the Spectator Shelf is vertically elongated and stands on supports that mimic the shape of legs, the Big Spectator spreads across a wider area and is shaped like a four-footed animal. Both Single Spectator and Single Spectator II are standalone pieces that are crafted to function as stools, bedside tables or small shelves. Affixing two individual pieces of the Single Spectator shelves results in Spectator Twins. Humbly sized, this shelf has enough nooks to hold larger objects like books and bottles and smaller ones like mobile phones and playing cards.

Spectator Twins as cosy storage unitImage: Courtesy of Freia Achenbach

Each larger piece is made up of a puzzle-like combination of various smaller pieces. They are interlocked against each other to form cohesive and balanced structures. The assembly and disassembly of these cabinets is also easy since they are light in weight. The modular Spectator series, thus, invites users to construct their individual structures as they please, helping thus in their personal creative expression.

Freia Achenbach in her studio Image: Tamara Wirth

Freia Achenbach is a designer who experiments with different materials, mediums and objects to express her creative narratives. Her designs are never too literal, leaving a generous scope for personal imagination and interpretation by the user and viewer. She crafts her designs by hand or has them produced in small manufactories, a factor that further infuses her objects with characteristics that define her personality. She works in both a personal capacity and in collaboration with Carlo Kurth and June Fàbregas, who together form anima ona, an experimental design studio. Both Achenbach and the anima ona, through their projects, regularly present unwonted usage of materials, atypically designed everyday objects and performative presentations that express their personal ideas.

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