Doing my morning troll of design sites, I see on Designboom yet another piece of concrete furniture, this time a concrete coffee table by Rafael Gomez. Now this piece is not entirely without interest, in that it is a direct "wink at the building industry more precisely at the universe inside a building site where so many objects and shapes can be used to make any object."- anyone who has been involved in the building industry has seen lots of rebar sticking out of concrete and this definitely is a clever allusion.
Bucky Fuller famously asked "how much does your house weigh?" Mass matters. In a world where we talk about portability and mobility, concrete is just about the worst material going; it is heavy. And in a world where we worry about our carbon footprint, the manufacture of cement is responsible for 5% of the Carbon dioxide produced every year. The other ingredient in concrete is aggregate, mostly dug out of gravel pits transported by heavy trucks. It has its uses, but in furniture?
A few weeks back, all the design sites were showing James De Wulf's Ping Pong Dining Table. Even the designer admits that it isn't the perfect material. In an interview on homedit, when asked why he chose concrete instead of wood:
The weight of it. It may be less practical from one point of view but I love the feel of it and am learning to use it’s characteristics to it’s benefit in furniture design.
Now I have nothing against concrete ping pong tables; I smiled when I saw them in Paris last year, thinking that every park should have these. For outdoor use it makes a lot of sense. Probably is great fun to play on, too. (James de Wulf says " The table is fun to play on. You can bang into it, play beer pong on it, leave it out in the snow and even stand on it. "
If handled with a sense of humour, it can make a point; in 1980 Swiss interior architect and designer Stefan Zwicky built "Domage a Corbu, grand confort, sans confort" - Homage to Corbu, a grand comfort without comfort, It sold recently for $ 40,000 at an art gallery in New York.
But outside of the practical use outdoors and the artistic licence in the pocket of Stefan Zwicky, perhaps we should leave cement and aggregate where it belongs, which is in the ground.