Friday, July 25, 2008

Prototype: Sluice

The focus this time is on how to “up-cycle” the recycled wood and plastic decking material left over after building the uber-deck of your dreams.

Throwing away the odds ends and scraps of such an energy intensive product like plastic could easily undo any benefit in using recycled materials. Here is a way to protect the environment as we know it - but from a different vantage point.
Most wood / plastic composite decking materials can be welded together with epoxy and bent into curved shapes with the application of low levels of heat.
Quickly accessorize your deck with matching deck chairs. This zero waste solution makes sure that as little of our dwindling supply of oil is tossed into landfills.

Sinuously curvilinear loungers are bent into shape and snapped together - the same way the deck itself was constructed.
These chairs can be used indoors also, just drag it through your patio door and add an Azara drapery cushion - now you’ve got a comfortable lounge chair.

The individual decking strips can be taken apart for storage or rearrangement for added flexibility and the decking material comes in an assortment of colors and textures to match any deck.

Prototype: TANK

Azara Design Lab explores how mundane materials can be reconstituted into long lasting and useful items with elevated value. Our goal is to capture the embodied energy lost when raw goods are transformed into consumer products that are quickly rendered obsolete and then tossed into the garbage.

This furniture series takes post-consumer paper as a source material. Paper and cardboard waste is soaked in water until reduced to pulp. This is mixed with small amounts of Portland cement. The resultant slurry is then poured into various molds and left to dry. Upon removal, the hard yet tensile product has been dubbed “Paper-Crete”.

With the Tank prototype, we tried to exploit all properties of paper-crete. The light weight modular frames are triangulated for maximum structural efficacy with a minimal use of material. The various types frames (six in all) are designed to lock together with dowels and can be easily arranged into various seating configurations. When needs or desires change the frames can be pulled apart, rearranged or exchanged.
With variegated wood tones based on the balance of paper to cardboard, former trash is revealed to possess a unique and interesting finish (with the application of a water based semi-gloss sealer). The paper-crete mix for the small chair has been treated to a high concentration of fly-ash and takes on a patina similar to fiber cement board. Other finish options could involve laminated bamboo ply, recycled plastic, and an endless array of veneers, paints and lacquers.
Adaptability has always been a hallmark of our work. We feel that imbuing multiple levels of functionality into a single product is one of the most fail-safe ways to lengthen the longevity of our products while strengthening our commitment to our environment.
Seen here is a sofa utilizing five of the frame shapes with eighteen interconnected segments. A club seat of three shapes and ten segments and chair of three shapes and six pieces are also illustrated.
With Azara’s draped cushioning system, flexibility and comfort is assured.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Life Cycle: Produce Consume Dispose

This is a project which focuses on public space typologies. There was a speculation on new typologies of public space through an exploration of how national retail chains aggregate to make space in the city, including how they brand and give cultural identity to the public realm.
More appropriate models for these retail aggregates in urban contexts were explored as well as new supplementary programs and operations that might piggy-back or co-exist with these retail establishments to create expanded nodes for public occupation.
The case study site that is used is Old Town Square, a retail development at the intersection of Division, Clybourn, and Orleans Streets in the Cabrini Green neighborhood. The existing mall was built about 6 years ago and is best described as a suburban typology that was transposed to the city, a phenomenon that is increasingly common in other parts of Chicago.
The following is an observation to the current standing and trend in urban areas of urban suburbanization.

The following images show a response to this suburbanization of the city, and an exploration of new opportunities for public territory that can be possible by alternative typologies of public retail space. The ideas that were taken into consideration are: The change that occurs in the transposition of a particular typology from one context to another, The cross-breeding of spatial and programming attributes of these franchise corporations into spatial synergies, The economic power of these corporations to fiance new public initiatives at specific locations, The increasing rose of retail franchises in branding, programming and cultural organization of the public realm, The adoption of sustainable strategies for retail zones in an urban context (density, environmental, etc.), and Ways in which these retail zones could become more place specific (less generic).

Ample Sample’s People’s Choice Award

Niti and I entered a competition called “Ample Sample“. Sponsored by Bently Price Street, and held for the last two years, this competition asked the open ended question of what to do with the large amounts of carpet tile that accumulate in most architectural and interior design offices throughout the US.

We thought this a good question to ask and so we submitted a number of possibilities. If you’d like to see all of the entries, check out the web site : and I actively contributed to each others designs but she submitted two ideas, the “Ruf Rak” and the “Mag Rak”. I added the “Sling Chair”, “Suspense Bench”, “Suspense Sofa” and the “Carpet Sqr’d Chair”.
A friend of mine also contributed two entries. Man Tam Hing included his “Accent Light” and “Picture Frame” proposals. All in all the chances were high that we’d score at least one direct hit - and we did!
The Carpet Sqr’d prototype was designated a finalist based on on-line voting and then when on to a tie vote for the peoples choice award at NeoCon (an interior design convention at the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago). Many thanks to all who voted.
“Over two percent of solid waste in landfills is composed of discarded carpet”
Our goal is to find simple solutions that exploit a given materials inherent yet overlooked qualities while highlighting the need to explore a future where design betters society not just beautifies it.

“Used carpet and rugs generate around 2.6 million tons of waste per year”
Can one or two recycled carpet tiles change the course of a smilingly endless waste stream?
Design objects that maximize the reuse and recycling of discarded resources are our goal. Creating demand for products with large amounts of recycled content will help stem the flow.

“Only one percent of the carpet discarded each year is recycled”
With so little carpet being reused, our objective was to encourage repurposing as a viable and more importantly enviable approach to product design. A few people with a few hand tools can assemble unique furniture that is both practical and resource regenerative.

“Every year, Four billion pounds of carpet are discarded in the United States, of which only about one percent is recycled”
With so much carpet destined for land fills, our objective is to aesthetically re-purpose as much as we can. Two people with a few hand tools can assemble unique furniture that is both practical and a conversation generator.
Thanks to everyone who voted!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


This is a variant of the Bee line of furniture. Using the same materials as bee, this product highlights the structural properties of the Beeboard or Torhex product while focusing on flat pack ability and ease of assembly, disassembly and mobility.

With more than a hint of constructivist logic, the BeeFlat sofa presents a low slung horizontal stance. Interlocking fins make obvious the construction technique and lend an angularity to this sofa. Again, the cardboard base is accessorized with interchangeable, draped cushions that can be mixed and matched at the client’s whim. Made from recycled and recyclable materials, this line of product hopes to push the boundaries of disposable materials and elevate them to the world of eco-luxury. The slip-sliding planes of hardboard faced cardboard can be taken apart, lain flat, and easily moved when necessary.


Finding new uses for mundane materials is one of our goals. If all of the Earth's resources can be made to seem precious and worthy of being conserved, large amounts of what we now consider garbage would suddenly be re-evaluated. Vast amounts of paper products are used and discarded each day. This paper can be easily recycled into cardboard. Cardboard too is often regarded as worthless packing material destined for the landfill.

Can modest materials be elevated in status by fully exploiting inherent structural, visual and tactile properties?

The majesty of the tree these products once were should be upheld, somehow.
Beeboard or Torhex, are expanded corrugated cardboard sheet goods that form the basis of this prototypical sofa. The material is made from industrial and post consumer paper products and is used primarily as a packaging material and as core filler in hollow door construction.

The expanded cardboard is sandwiched between sheets of hardboard, imparting structural rigidity and increased longevity. These products are lightweight and strong, readily available and familiar yet, in this context, also surprising and unfamiliar. Used as the base for this sofa, the beeboard has been folded bellows like, further increasing structural properties while enhancing the textural complexity of the honeycombed cellular matrix.
Over this long and reticulated base are draped custom made linear cushions filled with shredded blue jean material recycled from the manufacturing of clothing. These draped cushions are made to order in any fabric, hide or material. Colors can be coordinated or randomly collaged to suit the needs of ant d├ęcor. The flexibility and expressive opportunities are endless. Thus, this sofa can be adapted as times change, lengthening the useful lifespan of such humble trash.