Chairs are mobile objects with a great deal of character: they have legs, arms, a back and countless forms of expression. Tables, on the other hand, are architectural elements: static, stable, unmoving. While there have been hundreds of memorable chairs, only a few tables have made design history. The function of a table is always the same: a horizontal panel positioned at a specific height. Since the middle of the previous century, the materials that have proven suitable for tables have changed very little.
Is a table such a simple entity? For a small child it can turn into a house. Its typical social function is to gather people together while also maintaining distance between them. The table is a fundamental part of the home, so basic and essential that in the era of modernism, when the chair was significantly altered and new typologies emerged, only minor changes were made to the table.
Given these circumstances, it is not easy to develop a new table – let alone a table system – that is both practical and unique. Yet this was the aim of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec with Kaari (‘arch’ in Finnish), their novel table system for Artek.
The design task was to create a product that was both suited to Artek and simultaneously new – hence without making explicit reference to historic Artek products. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec developed a number of ideas. At the initial presentation one proposal already stood out: an innovative table leg, or more precisely, a systematic construction for legs that could support a wide variety of different tabletops: small and large, round and rectangular, low and high. Soon it became evident that the same system could also be used to construct wall-mounted objects such as single shelves on brackets and entire shelf units.
The principle is extremely simple: the vertical load is supported by a wooden part. Bent steel banding is used to provide elegant and transparent diagonal support. The interplay between the solid vertical board and the metal band gives the base a surprisingly light appearance and creates a distinctive linear silhouette. When several tables are present in the same room, their silhouettes have a rhythmic effect, making the otherwise static world of tables seem to vibrate.
Upon viewing these tables, observers feel as if they are looking at something completely new. Interestingly, however, this impression is not based on the use of new materials or innovative technology. Both wood and steel banding are traditional materials and a fundamental part of the Artek heritage – however, they have never before been combined in this way. Linoleum and glossy HPL, which were chosen as surface materials, absorb or reflect light in very different ways. As the tables are used over the course of time, these materials will develop an attractive patina.
Besides rectangular and round tables in two sizes each, the Kaari Collection includes a desk, a wall console, a small round shelf and an assortment of large wall-mounted shelf units. In addition to the material, the system concept is also prevalent in the history of Artek. Similar to the way Aalto used the L-leg to support a variety of tables, chairs, stools and containers, the Bouroullecs combine solid wood with steel banding to create a column base for small round tables, symmetrical wing-shaped legs for large rectangular tables and legs with a single wing-shaped support on one side for desks. The same principle is also applied to wall-mounted tables and shelves. Despite this affinity with the Artek tradition, however, Kaari has found an aesthetic of its own, making it distinguishable from classic Artek designs.
Artek was founded in 1935 by four young idealists: Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen, and Nils-Gustav Hahl. The business strategy of the company was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of living by exhibitions and other educational means”. The founders of Artek advocated a new kind of environment for everyday life. They believed in a grand synthesis of the arts and wanted to make a difference in architecture and design as well as in town planning.
Today Artek, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2015, is renowned as being one of the most innovative contributors to modern design, creating new paths at the intersection of design, architecture and art. The Artek collection comprises furniture, lighting and accessories by the Nordic masters Alvar Aalto, Ilmari Tapiovaara, Tapio Wirkkala, Eero Aarnio and Yrjö Kukkapuro. Artek also works with leading international architects, designers and artists, such as Shigeru Ban, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Hella Jongerius, Harri Koskinen, Enzo Mari and Tobias Rehberger.
Artek at Stockholm Furniture Fair
3 – 7 February 2015
Hall B | Booth 05:20
Tuesday – Friday 9am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm