18th century transformer furniture blows away anything built today

© Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art just closed, but watch the videos of this extraordinary furniture built by the father and son team of Abraham and David Roentgen, between 1742 and the early 1800s. Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG, (and now Gizmodo) is blown away by it.

If you can get past the visual styling of the furniture—after all, the dainty little details and inlays perhaps might not appeal to many BLDGBLOG readers—and concentrate instead only on the mechanical aspect of these designs, then there is something really incredible to be seen here. Hidden amidst drawers and sliding panels are keyholes, the proper turning of which results in other unseen drawers and deeper cabinets popping open, swinging out to reveal previously undetectable interiors.

But it doesn't stop there. Further surfaces split in half to reveal yet more trays, files, and shelves that unlatch, swivel, and slide aside to expose entire other cantilevered parts of the furniture, materializing as if from nowhere on little rails and hinges. Whole cubic feet of interior space are revealed in a flash of clacking wood flung forth on tracks and pulleys.

We don't have this kind of craftsmanship anymore, or the money to pay for it; even the MET called it extravagant and princely. But the gaming table shown here, one of the simplest of the pieces, is not too far off some of the transformer pieces we have shown that are still being made.

18th century transformer furniture blows away anything built today
This stuff folds in ways you cannot imagine, serving more functions than you can think of.

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