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Studio Monolith fabricates a Sanctuary of bold, brutalist furniture
Sanctuary collection by Monolith Studio
Image: Courtesy of Monolith Studio

Studio Monolith fabricates a Sanctuary of bold, brutalist furniture

The New York-based design studio unveils nine sculptural designs including three pieces designed by London-based Benni Allan and Paris-based Studio Le Cann.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Feb 13, 2023

In brutalism, raw materiality is prominent, often hidden behind layers of colours, faux textures, and finishes. The sculptural silhouettes donned in an unadulterated material expression, vocalizing a language authentic to its fabric, nothing more, nothing less. If one really thinks about it, the act of choosing not to tamper with real, often imperfect, tactility, is one of sheer courage in a structure wherein the elusive idol of perfection is worshipped. The bare facades are stripped down to the minimum, their only embellishment being the stories of their construction and evolution, and the traces of hands that carved them—a cauldron of history that accumulates impressions of time as it segues into the future. Can encounters with these unfiltered visages be a sanctuary?

A Sanctuary of honest materiality

This ensemble of sculptural monoliths alludes to brutalist tendencies, the heavy proportions ushering the viewer through a portal to a bygone time. Titled, and justifiably so, Sanctuary, the furniture designs constitute the debut collection of New York-based design studio Monolith. The studio, established in 2022 by designer Marc Personick, operates in spheres of collectable furniture and product design. Each monolithic piece employs the purity of lines and heavy proportions to unearth the natural beauty and sophistication of the raw materials they are crafted from. Their newest launch extends on this language and encompasses nine unique designs crafted from both stone and wood, including three pieces designed exclusively for Monolith by London-based architect Benni Allan and Paris-based design duo Studio Le Cann. Sanctuary took the stage at Campos Polanco in Mexico City annunciating the studio’s inceptive endeavour. “I see furniture as art. For me, this collection was a journey to pay homage to that vision—to create pieces that you can both use day to day and admire as works of art,” says Personick.

A call to (no) action

It was Personick’s love for brutalism “which uses sculptural forms to emphasise the materials and textures” that translated into the innovative design studio he now helms. Over the course of its growth, Monolith has woven a collaborative network with skilled architects and designers from around the world with each piece hand-produced by local artisans in both Mexico City and New York. Monolith speaks of minimalism, not just in the output, but in interventions and approach. The simplicity permeates each layer of the manufacturing process, impacting the creation in its entirety as opposed to its mere physical dimension. Ironically, the consciousness is directed towards making fewer intentional choices, and doing less consumes more energy. “One of the most difficult challenges is knowing when to stop, knowing when you’ve made just enough moves,” shares the furniture designer.

The power in softness

When you lay your eyes upon the sculptural designs, what envelopes you is a compelling sense of serenity, one that almost disconnects you from the ubiquitous bustle. But escorting the comfort of soft curves are domineering proportions and stability that can be relied upon. What ensues is a dance of divergent energies—the sinuous curves luring you into falling into their embrace, and their robust monolithic compositions complementing this softness with fortitude. The designs of each piece in the collection—a bench, chair design, stool design, side table, console, nightstand and lamp design—harness the contrast of soft curves, sharp edges, and generous proportions to really emphasise the form.

A sculpture with utility

“My intention with Monolith was to be able to take cues from brutalism to create furniture and objects that blended the line between sculpture and utility,” explains Personick. The collection’s forms and undulating edges blend the line between functional objects and sculptural art. Handcrafted from locally sourced Jalapa Travertine, Recinto Negro, White Oak, and Walnut, each limited edition piece reveals the natural beauty of the material itself. “Also working with thicker proportions, especially with dense materials like Jalapa travertine or Recinto which can weigh up to 2600 kg/m3 made managing the weight of the pieces crucial,” the designer shares.

The collection features four pieces carved from a single stone: the M_001 chair with a heavily proportioned silhouette, smooth curves, and a powerful stature making it a bold brutalist icon; M_004 table lamp with a geometric simplicity that blurs the lines between tool and object; M_003 counter stool showcasing a cylindrical form, sharp cutouts, and gentle sloping bevel; and M_008 console, a rippled triple column geometry that playfully softens the space around it. The M_002 side table is composed of two pieces of carved stone, its half-dome sphere floating effortlessly within its base; the sculptural and heavy form is simultaneously a functional object and a piece of art. The M_005 bench is crafted from three meticulously constructed blocks and its curved figure emphasises the connection between its parts. The weighty blocks appear to levitate effortlessly above the ground. Four elements bind together to create M_007 lounge chair, a composition that delicately leverages the spacing between its joints to balance its hefty form with a gentle feeling of weightlessness.

Exploring material: a geographical wealth

For Personick, the course of Monolith has been interspersed with collaborations with international designers, something he looks forward to in the near future while leveraging Monolith's design philosophy. "I also want to continue to explore the wealth of incredible materials that are available in Mexico and learn how I can really reveal the beauty in each unique texture," the designer shares. Exuding the allure of clean lines and minimalist configurations, each design is underpinned by the innate sophistication of the materials that fuel them—a reprieve amidst the resounding presence of visual corrections and concealers. This Sanctuary of warm and inviting entities perched on mounds of sand, their earthy tones blithely dissolving into it, is guided by sheer materiality—the designer's hands acting as a mere medium to conceive a fabric that speaks for itself. The untouched richness of natural materials is enunciated, and a respite comes to life—a placid retreat you would want to take home.

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