As you may know if you’re even an occasional reader of 3rings, I have a profound admiration for designs that synthesize two or more (previously “un-synthesized,” if you’ll pardon the grammatical offense) central components or features, which is one reason among many to laud Amsterdam’s Jair Straschnow and his Grassworks line of flat-pack, screwless/glueless furniture made from—you guessed it—grass.
Easy Chair. Designed by Jair Straschnow.
So what exactly is being synthesized here? First there’s the intersection of the world’s most versatile/sustainable stalk (see Teori Bamboo and the Spring Chair) with seamless and clean joinery (as in David Stine’s Lowder Table); then there’s the fortuitous encounter of flat-pack storage/transport (like Casulo’s Life in a Box) with dual-use functionality (a la the Itomaki Table); and, of course, the meeting of an über-streamlined aesthetic (the Novanta Workstation comes to mind) with materials science and a sustainable ethos (like Bazzèo kitchens).
All of the above explains why Zeev Aram has chosen to feature a Grassworks exhibition at his Aram Gallery (debuting on September 17, the exhibition coincides with Design London). There’s clearly much to appreciate about Straschnow’s new collection, but Aram seems particularly taken with its multi-dimensional functionality, including easy storage/transport and hardware-free assembly: “He has an idiosyncratic way of wanting everything to fold-up, click into place, and fit together with a minimum amount of glue or fixings … it’s rare to find a designer who works so hard to solve problems that he sets himself.” And Daniel Charny, the show’s curator, remarks on the superlatively unified design of each piece, making special mention of “the way in which each individual component is designed to satisfy a very demanding self-inflicted aesthetic, practical and green credentials.”
Though “self-inflicted” makes it sound like Grassworks has a bit of a masochistic streak, Charny’s point is well-taken. Each of the several prototypes on exhibit—a trestle dining table, a picnic table and bench, a convertible easy/dining chair, and a set of bookshelves—follows function first and aesthetic second. I admire this method of working within a broad series of constraints (in this case, as Charny mentions, a sustainable material, minimal components for assembly, and practical/multi-use features), and letting the aesthetic emerge organically from these “self-inflicted” requirements. The result is that the look of the pieces complements their ecologically-minded construction, qualifying Grassworks as “a range that is designed to be simple, intelligent, beautiful, space-saving and wholly sustainable.”