The Canadian architect Frank Gehry, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, in addition to his many spectacular achievements in architecture such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney auditorium in Los Angeles, creates products for commercial brands. Together with Zaha Hadid, he is a renowned contemporary architect, the creator of very formal forms whose approach to the delicate is easily recognizable. These incursions are anecdotal at the moment, but even so, noticed and remarkable. He has already designed jewelry for Tiffany. Now he also designs furniture.
This photo shows the prototype of the Tuyomyo bench: this 3 mters long bench, created by the Canadian architect for Emeco, a U.S. manufacturer of aluminum chairs, was presented at the furniture fair in Milan in April 2009. The construction of the bench employs a manufacturing technology used in aviation, it is made of 80% recycled aluminum and weighs only 55 kg. The shape and the material used for this bench are original for this type of object. It is to be auctioned in New York in 2009 and the proceeds of the sale will be donated to the Hereditary Disease Foundation.
Seen from the front, we observe the combination of a sinuous line (four inflexions) and an angular line (five angles). The dips and apexes of the two lines are in phase and they connect at the three peaks. This "segmenting" of the two lines suggests a kind of gradual merging of one line into the other. Two interpretations are possible: either a downward movement which presses the top plate of aluminum with its smooth and approximative form towards the rigid mold of the angular shape, into which all concavity and convexity disappear. Or, on the contrary, an upward movement where the angular shapes are softened and flattened out to result in a perfectly horizontal plane. A quote from Frank Gehry describing the bench (Internet site www.floornature.info ) confirms his desire for a twofold interpretation: "the form should be free and light, it must be structural in nature, and at the same time poetic, and a little dangerous".
A first poetic reading of upward movement is given by this form that rises towards freedom, lightness and even weightlessness as those suggested by the winged shape that forms the curved line. Another interpretation, structural this time, may be downwards. The contrast between the angular and the curved line has a visual impact that draws the viewer's attention. The lines themselves reinforce the credibility of the object: the sections that users come in contact with are undulating, and even if it appears somewhat uncomfortable, it is apparently ergonomically adapted to human form. We therefore have organic forms for human contact and crystalline forms for its structural engineering support.
The visual contrast finds an echo in the contrast of the significance of the lines where the curves pit their movement and their freedom against the stability, strength and danger of the angular. Each line represents an aspect of the paradoxical vision of Gehry and corresponds to a symbolic finality. The word "poetry" has been understood as one analogous to the qualities of lightness, fluidity and freedom, "structural" as one corresponding to the technical needs for its achievement (rationality, angularity, etc.). To the paradox of the seat, which is both dangerous and poetic, is added comfort that is barely evident and a support structure that might remind one of a "house of cards". Organic form to sit, definitely, but in apparence not suited to a seated position. Angles (sharp and orthogonal angles if the bench is viewed from the side) for the structure but which could makes one think of a fragile houses of cards (viewed from the front). The simultaneous presence of the two lines becomes necessary to express the paradoxical vision of the form proposed by the architect and which a single line cannot embrace. Is Gehry's work not marked by this quest for lightness, the liberation of constructed forms from the grip of the angular? All of this with a touch of contradiction (of humor), otherwise why make a bench dangerous when it is meant to sit on and therefore precisely to reduce tension? In most of the architect's work, there is a combination of four lines: the curved, the circular, the straight and the angular. If curves seem to be so present, they are a recent innovation in construction and Gehry makes intensive use of them. But if you look carefully at his creations (see photos below), in the chaos and jumble of curved surfaces, one still finds the combinations of the four lines with a majority of them being curved and sinuous, but also several angles; with a smaller number of straight lines.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Hotel Marques de Riscal
Other views of the Tuyomyo bench where the straight and angular dimensions are clearly visible.
One can undoubtedly classify Gehry's work as contemporary "neobaroque", so designated by Omar Calabrese. One finds many of the neobaroque characteristics: instability and metamorphosis, rhythm and repetition, detail and fragmentation, disorder and chaos, knots and labyrinths, complexity ...
There remains the mystery of the name given to this bench. A translation of the Spanish phonetic meaning could be, "What is yours is mine", compatible with the project. A freer translation could be "you and I", which would corroborate the fact that the proceeds of the sale will go to a medical research foundation.