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Ron Arad renders his iconic chairs in wood for ALPI’s ‘If I were a Carpenter’ exhibition
The Volumes by Ron Arad for the exhibition ‘If I were a Carpenter’
Image: Courtesy of Thomas Pagani

Ron Arad renders his iconic chairs in wood for ALPI’s ‘If I were a Carpenter’ exhibition

The Israeli designer reimagines his Big Easy armchair, Voido rocker, and the Thumbprint functional sculpture using ALPI’s reconstituted wooden veneers.

by Ayushi Mathur
Published on : Dec 04, 2022

”Do not blame the tools. Blame the artist.”

-Ron Arad

For the fourth instalment of their experimental exhibition series, the Italian brand ALPI invited Ron Arad to interpret the company’s compositional wooden veneer through his illustrious vision. The collaborative exhibition titled If I were a Carpenter, borrows its title from Tim Hardin’s iconic 1960s English song, and is on display till December 22, 2022, at the brand’s showroom in Milan, Italy. The London-based industrial designer has spearheaded the design world for decades, with his poetic creations that weave subtle narratives between industrial design and contemporary art. "The pioneering architect, designer, and artist Ron Arad already inhabited my wish box. He decided to make three chairs from his ‘Blame the Tools’ series using boards of our wood in two colours, one for each side. The result is astonishing, and it shows how easily Ron is able to enter a new world and wield new tools while maintaining all his elegance, subversive style, and spirit," says Vittorio Alpi, CEO of ALPI.

For the design exhibition, Arad presented wooden renditions of his three iconic volume pieces—the Big Easy armchair, Voido rocker, and the Thumbprint functional sculpture. "When ALPI contacted me for this project, I wanted to create something that celebrates the company's product so I thought of something made of a lattice structure of wood,” says Arad. “The extra thing is the materiality, plus the fact that I could have a different colour for each side of the board. So a piece that looks, say, blue from one side, when you go around it, it looks red," he adds. The product designer , working in accordance with the brand, stripped the three iconic pieces bare, in an attempt to reveal the sculptural soul hidden in their weight-bearing structures.

The Big Easy Chair

Following the basic volume sketches that he created in the late 1900s, Arad rendered the primary edition of the Big Easy chair in 1988. The first edition presented a primitive outlook, one that fashionably captured the essence of perfection in imperfection with an added touch of opulence. Working on similar lines, Arad transcribed the basic volumes and structural references of the Big Easy, to create its upholstered, carved, resin and, now, parametric wooden versions. For the exhibition, Arad adapted the Big Easy chair’s generous size, soft lines, giant armrests, and curvy shapes as a monobloc volume in wood. The two-toned version of the chair is red on one side and black on the other, imparting an entrancing optical illusion that changes with the viewer’s perspective. The product designer strives to experiment further with the structural inferences of the Big Easy chair in many materials, even saying, “The Big Easy has been a canvas for a lot of other ideas. It has been an icon for me.”

The Oh Void Chair

“I was delighted when I was approached by ALPI and was asked to make some pieces using their extraordinary range of wooden sheets. It was impossible to chase away the ‘idea’ that took charge—to make armature pieces of coloured, layered, wooden plates that would enjoy different tones from different views and directions,” says Arad. Inspired by the solid rocker that Arad fabricated using metallic rods, the Voido armchair embraces the armature of the original stainless steel volume. The seemingly simple chair design conceals great complexities in design and construction. Voido rocker has been designed using ALPI’s laminated wooden panels and just like the Big Easy, is fabricated using dual-tone veneer with red on one side and blue on the other face. For each piece, three-dimensional layouts were created that was further realised in multiple layouts and assembled.

The Southern Hemisphere chair

The third piece on display is the Southern Hemisphere and works on the lines of Arad’s iconic functional sculpture—Thumbprint. The well-recognised artwork is a part of the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s permanent collection. The visually arresting and idiosyncratic design approach, a patent of the product designer was illustriously displayed through the Southern Hemisphere chair. Arad and ALPI built the wooden version of the Thumbprint with wooden slats that were cut out and joined in a meticulous composition. The two-tone wood is black on one side and grey on the other.

Ron Arad’s radical design approach doesn't limit him to the confines of his own profession; he loves to experiment in material mediums and explores working capacities with skilled craftsmen. For Alpi’s exhibition, Arad consciously channelled his experimentative yet highly artistic oeuvre to not just overcome the challenges of fabrication, but also present the volumes as learning experiences for aspiring designers across the world.

ALPI continues to exhibit finesse through their qualitative products and while their previous collaborations offered creative insights into design giants such as Piero Lissoni, the Campana brothers of Estudio Campana, Philippe Starck, Martino Gamper and others, the latest collaborative collection with Ron Arad pushes the boundaries of futuristic design and limitless innovation.

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