At Bklyn Designs: Sami Hayek’s Raven

Salone is over - for a week now actually - and your 3ringers are moving from Milan to a more local hot spot in New York. First stop is the Brooklyn Design Expo. which gets underway Friday, May 9, with an opening night address by keynote speaker Sami Hayek.

If the last name sounds familiar, it's because he shares it with sister Selma (she of the writhing snakes in the wonderfully pulpy From Dusk Till Dawn), but the designer is becoming a household name in his own right. Born and raised in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico to Lebanese and Spanish parents, Hayek's aesthetic palette was much influenced by the vibrant Mercado scene of rural Mexico, with its intimations of decay amongst a lively and surreal natural landscape. Like many prominent designers, Hayek does it all: he's an architect (having contracted with both residential and commercial clients), an interior and landscape designer, product creator, and graphic artist/designer. He seems to relish versatility.

At Bklyn Designs: Sami Hayek's Raven

Occupational Lines. Designed by Sami Hayek.

Though perhaps best known for his work in bentwood (the "California" series of stackable/transformable dining chairs, benches, and tables, all of which are "dressable" in either wood or leather), he's also created furniture from a variety of materials including carbon, chrome, and frosted glass (Sami Hayek Studios). His aesthetic tends toward the sharp, clean, airy lines of classic modern, though the California series certainly integrates the fluidity of organic shapes. But of late, he's interested in a kind of "reasonable" sustainabilty, "I don't force myself into sustainability-I don't force myself into green architecture. I do hire a green architect consultant on every single project that comes into my office, and even if we do 5% sustainable, well, that's what we do."

Hayek is also interested in sustainable design in the sense of being aware of the far-reaching implications of design decisions: "it goes beyond your bedroom-it goes beyond your office space. It reaches out to the places where these products are being developed and bought from, and also has impact on a different infrastructure that makes it possible for other designers to even get access to the products." In some ways, he's talking about how industry can act collectively to create new idioms around its materials and techniques. An example might be incorporating a cultural aesthetic-such as the "pueblito" concept, which foregrounds Hayek's work-into contemporary designs, which would in turn benefit communities by using local materials and calling on a heritage of local craftsmanship.

At Bklyn Designs: Sami Hayek's Raven

Raven jetliner. Designed by Sami Hayek in collaboration with Bentley.

This is all well and good, but how to reconcile such musings with Hayek's recent collaboration with auto manufacturer (and poster child for the white, waspy, and super-rich) Bentley, with whom Hayek recently collaborated for "Raven," a deluxe jet airliner appointed to the nines? We're talking a richy-rich (but gorgeous, oh so gorgeous) palette of creams and chocolately/walnuty browns; varnished hard woods with a sheen like diamonds; the plushest ergonomic upholstered foams; mantlepieces and fireplaces; lavish foliage and a full bar; single malt scotches and steak tartare. It really must be seen to be believed (Raven Concept). Perhaps Hayek will address this seeming disconnect-and how designers may negotiate the divide between sustainabity and indulgence-when he opens the show. It should make for an interesting evening.

Posted May 5, 2008 by Joseph Starr

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