Architect David Adjaye dives into furniture design with Double Zero, a series of symmetrical chairs released by Moroso during Salone del Mobile 2015.
What was the starting point of Double Zero?
David Adjaye: Double Zero is about games in a way. These pieces are not really furniture, they are objects in space that frame the body. Currently I am interested in optics, how you look at things from the front and the back. I wanted to make furniture that did not look like furniture but had a signature and talked about the body in space and form. The front and back are almost in symmetry, so it's a double game. It's not just an evolution of ergonomics. It is socially and sculpturally driven rather than ergonomically driven. It is an ergonomic chair and it totally fits the body but it's not the evolution of ergonomics or the latest shape.
What as an architect, do you bring to the furniture industry?
As an architect, I approach things differently than a furniture designer would. Furniture designers are developing various techniques and systems. They are like fashion designers as they develop their style. When I am working on a new concept for a space, I also want to see if I can incorporate new furniture concepts that will go into that space and speak the same language. I'm not interested in making small architecture because that never works. I'm very interested in the idea that whatever the conceptual frame of the space is, the furniture also has a conceptual frame that can match. That's what has brought me more into the design world. Double Zero has been done for a project I am developing in Beirut, a hotel project where I wanted to bring this range in and Patrizia [Moroso’s Art Director] loves it.
How do you feel the meaning of product design has changed?
I think it is a very mature form. It's only been 60 years or so. At the beginning it was very eclectic – a lot of people were doing it. Now there are very strong schools. It has a very strong style, so much so that it is almost like fashion to me. There are certain trends that can be followed, and an evolution of sorts. Milan is part of those trends and the evolution of those products. It is very different from what architects do. More than ever, there is a big difference in how architects make furniture and how designers make furniture. They are not the same.
Designers are now in a fashion run. They develop questions that are based on themes. They're not developing ideas because it's too fast, you can't develop ideas at that speed. In a way, that's the luxury of my business because it's not my full time job so it’s when I have an idea, I make a collection. That's what designers are yearning for. They are in an industry that requires them to churn things out. Furniture has become like fashion.
Is Milan still relevant as a forum?
Yes. It's easy to criticize but what do you replace it with? In the end, objects need to be seen, so there needs to be a forum. The problem is not the forum, it is the industry which is basically 98 per cent generic and 2 per cent unique. The unique guys: Moroso; Knoll; Vitra have these moments that are really signature. The rest are versions of versions. It's exhausting but they're making money. To allow the really innovative companies – that push the industry – to show their wares, we need arenas like Milan. I certainly don't want it to be online or invitation only. The Salone is a public spectacle. It's exhausting for those that are in it, but it is refreshing for those that just want to see trends.
Do you see it evolving?
There is a huge opportunity to move Milan beyond a browsing showroom. Typologies need always to be understood. The producers just see the numbers and the money. The designers and the creatives need to understand where the criticality is. In a way, the Salone is a city that happens for a few days. The exhaustion we feel comes from the singularity of its offering. Don’t we want more from a city than just one thing? No place where so many people are grouped together can be singular.