One For All: Shigeru Ban’s Modular 10-Unit System

In purchasing a piece of furniture, you generally run the risk that despite its perfect fit in your current home, it could end up homeless in your next. This is particularly true for New Yorkers and other city dwellers, where space comes at a premium and moving often occurs frequently. Imagine purchasing components that can be configured in any number of ways, providing benches of any length, chairs or tables. Renowned architect Shigeru Ban is making this possible.

10-Unit System. Designed by Shigeru Ban for Artek.

A single L-shaped module with numerous possibilities, the 10-Unit System for Artek is unlikely to ever end up abandoned at your curb. Assembling and disassembling made easy, it can be reconfigured depending on your current needs and space. The designer lets the user design, making it virtually impossible to go wrong. Whereas many systems require multiple components and specific configurations to operate, Shigeru Ban has made modular furniture easy: the single L-shaped module does everything from providing a backrest to legs for tables or chairs. Made from UPM ProFi, an innovative, environmentally sustainable material made from recycled paper and plastic, the module is both strong and humidity resistant.




The 10-Unit System will debut this week during Milan Design Week 2009, a fitting location considering the concept initiated in this city in the form of a pavilion two years ago. For the Milan Triennale Garden in spring 2007, Shigeru Ban collaborated with Artek and the forestry company UPM to design the Artek Pavilion, “Space of Silence.” The pavilion was based on a structural unit repeated multiple times to form an elongated exhibition space and was built from the wood plastic composite UPM ProFi. It served as proof of the success of the efficiency of repetition and systems thinking. In 2008 “Space of Silence” sold at the Sotheby’s sale of Important 20th Century Design. The success of the pavilion paved the path for this latest collaboration: the 10-Unit System.

The Finnish company Artek is known for investing in materials research and engineering as well as engaging and collaborating with renowned architects (beginning with Alvar Aalto in the 1930s.) Long-lasting design and intelligent consumption are two terms that have appropriately been used in reference to the 10-Unit System. At 3Rings, we’ve watched a similar idea take shape, based on a single triangular unit, in the form of a reconfigurable and adaptable table Octavo, designed by architect Nandinee Phookan of I Make Studio. Systems thinking and modular design are likely to continue gaining popularity.

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