Revisiting the Avant-Garde Work of Castor Design, from Fluorescent-Bulb Chandeliers to a Concrete Ice-Fishing Hut

The Internet of design is so weird; things just pop up out of nowhere and before you know it, they are everywhere on every design site, even if they are half a dozen or so years old. A good example is the Sauna Box by Castor Design, which is making the rounds of design sites and Pinterest over the last few weeks. TreeHugger first picked it up from Mocoloco in 2005 and saw it at the Interior Design Show in Toronto in early 2006. (My awful photograph here).

It's typical of the work of Brian Richer and Kei Ng, principals of Castor, who have a sense of humor as well as style. They describe themselves:

Castor are interested in the middle ground between art and design. Materials and reuse of materials is [sic] also an important part of Castor's aesthetic. Burnt out bulbs to make lighting, a rusty shipping container to make a sauna -- this recontextualization of materials is a primary design consideration of for Castor.

Since the Sauna Box is making the rounds, I thought it might be fun to look at some of their other stuff again.

Perhaps my favorite project was their lighting installation at the Gladstone Hotel in 2007. This was a time when everyone was complaining about compact fluorescent bulbs; I thought this project demonstrated their power.

They filled wire boxes with dead incandescent bulbs and put one live CFL in the middle of each. They hung them over the entrance, in the trees, inside the hotel. They fed two kilometers of carefully braided cable back to a single outlet in the ceiling of an old hotel. Try and get this much light, and this much art, out of one circuit with any other bulb.

More at The Power of the Compact Fluorescent

It's like their Recycled Tube Light, made from dead fluorescent tubes recovered from architecturally significant buildings. Leonora wrote in 2006:

While we like energy efficiency of fluorescent tubes we’re not so keen on their overly functional aesthetic and harsh illumination, not to mention the irritating flickering just before they die on us. They are not so easy to dispose of either, so we love Castor Canadensis’s idea of light after death. Bunch a load of dead useless tubes together to make a big tube, et voila you have a functional funky light!

More in There's Still Light After Death: Castor Canadensis's Recycled Tube Light

They have great fun with materials, such as their Castor stool, carved out of a solid piece of limestone to look like a tree gnawed by a beaver, or their very silly Blind Stool:

The Blind Stool is cast in aluminum from a stool found in a duck blind in Northern Ontario. It is a collaboration between Castor and an unknown hunter. The wood grain, screws and rust patina are all in intact after casting. It has been finished with hand tooling, a black patina and has a leather handle for quick getaways.

More at Blindstool from Castor Canadensis.

concrete© Castor

Perhaps the silliest prefab ever designed was their precast concrete fishing hut. Imagine sitting out on the ice in this, complete with wood stove, stained glass windows and a chandelier made from drilled out light bulbs. And perhaps one of the simplest and best pieces of flatpack furniture shown on TreeHugger was their Credenza 2, on TreeHugger here.

"CASTOR IS FRENCH FOR BEAVER" is a video from Castor Design on Vimeo.

Talented designers, they have lately moved on to the restaurant business with Toronto's Parts and Labour.

Revisiting the Avant-Garde Work of Castor Design, from Fluorescent-Bulb Chandeliers to a Concrete Ice-Fishing Hut
The imaginative industrial design of this design firm -- which reuses materials both to create objects and speak about our culture -- has always been ahead of the curve.

Related Content on