David Boira and Zoë Coombes of Commonwealth are two architecturally trained furniture designers. From art and product design to photography and graphic design, the pair have distinguished themselves for making dreams three-dimensional. And they like to use the words "craft" and "computation" in the same sentence!
Zoë Coombes responds to the Design Indaba audience questions:
1. Does your background in architecture enhance the work you do now?
Yes, it certainly does enhance what we do. Architecture is a very broad discipline and certainly includes the basic building blocks of design. It is a culture that encourages you to work very hard, which is a fantastic habit for those who plan on pursuing their own studio. Architecture is really just one method of thinking through design – a subject that whether or not you are working at the scale of a fork, a shoe, a table or a tower, is really all a very similar thought process.
2. What was your main reason for diverting away from architecture?
I'm not sure that we've really “left architecture”, as they say, but we certainly aren't focused on the design of buildings. For David and myself, it was important to have a fair bit of autonomy in the design process, in order to develop something that felt new, and felt like it was reflective of us. By scaling down from buildings to the scale of furniture and product design, we were able to work on a relatively faster design cycle than that of building, and without the very difficult constraints that you find in architecture – the legal, financial and collective considerations that are essential to any building project (for very good reasons!). The need to have such broad appeal, and to satisfy so many constraints is also exactly what makes architecture such a difficult place for us to experiment within.
3. Your designs have a very subtle sexual undertone. Would you put it in the same category as HR Giger's designs?
We're glad you find the sexual undertones subtle... A design we submitted to a manufacturer was dismissed because it felt too "anal, in its sexuality" where they really wanted something much more "virginal". It is funny to have these kinds of conversations in a professional environment about something as mundane and material as a table lamp. Regarding HR Giger: We're sorry to say, we haven't spent much time with his work. For better or for worse, we try to stay away from a science fiction feel in our work. We are really perusing something much softer and more elegant, I think. Geiger, as beautiful as some of his works are, was quite dark.