Eco-classics? IsokonPlus and Voxia plywood furniture

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IKEA bent ply lounge chairs grace urban apartments around the globe. These ubiquitous domestic artefacts are inspired by the iconic 1930s designs of Alvar Alto, Marcel Breuer and Gerald Summers, but are definitely not in the same league. A quick glance at Breuer’s Isokon Short and Long chairs, designed in 1935-36, and still manufactured by IsokonPlus in the UK, reveals ‘truth to materials’ and the modernist ethic of design to improve well-being. It’s no surprise that the Isokon Furniture Company, founded by Jack Pritchard in 1935 with former Bauhaus guru Walter Gropius as Controller of Design (nice title), is still around 70 years later. Perhaps this is what’s meant by ‘sustainable business’. This is clearly design that sustains – it is durable, patinates with age, endures across generations and comes from renewable resources. Recognising stable market demand for quality furniture, other Scandinavian manufacturers, beyond IKEA, are bending plywood to the limits…Iform enlisted the talents of Peter Karpf for a new furniture range called Voxia – meaning ‘Voice’ or in this particular context ‘Nature’s way of speaking’. Karpf, educated at Fritz Hansen and the Copenhagen School of Arts & Crafts in the 1950s/1960s, has worked on the concept of seductive, curvilinear, eco-efficient plywood furniture for thirty, yes, thirty years. This evolved, ‘slow design’ process is paying handsome dividends…

Taking the bending of plywood to a new art form, Karpf has created a lyrical series of seating objects including the stackable Eco dining/office chair to the eclectic Oto lounge chair and quirky Vuw stool. Each is an object lesson in economy of materials and form. These achievements were acknowledge twice in Germany from the Industrie Forum (iF) design awards for the Eco and Oto. Here are tomorrow’s eco-classics! © Alastair Fuad-Luke, 2005

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A curvaceous Oto from the Voxia furniture range for Iform by Peter Karpf