SAM CHERMAYEFF [ET AL.]:
Sam Chermayeff [et al.]: Creatures, edited by Moritz Küng, is a look back through nearly two decades of experimental projects undertaken by the Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff and his collaborators—for the most part pieces of furniture whose use, appearance, or application has been reimagined and readapted. But these ‘creatures’ are not just conceptual; they’re made to be lived with daily and all start with the idea that personal whim is probably the best guide for producing any design that’s to be lived with day in, day out.
Sam Chermayeff [et al.]: Creatures, edited by Moritz Küng, is a look back through nearly two decades of experimental projects undertaken by the Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff and his collaborators
Photos of these objects go hand in hand with an essay by writer and curator Dieter Roelstraete, who talks us through Chermayeff’s work in the context of ‘thing theory’, a school of thought that focuses on human-object interactions. Readers move back and forth between their own view of Chermayeff’s creatures and Roelstraete’s reflections on the nature of ‘things’, as he also draws on cultural figures like Heidegger, Francis Ponge, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Karl Ove Knausgård, and our relationship to the indomitable presence of objects in our lives.
A short film by Guillem Cruells
Music by Thom Pringle
Sam Chermayeff (New York City, 1981) is an architect, and furniture designer based in Berlin and New York City. As well as running his personal practice, Sam Chermayeff Office, he also cofounded the office June 14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff. As a young architect, Chermayeff worked for SANAA in Tokyo for more than five years, leading projects such as the Serpentine Pavilion and the curation of the Venice Biennale.
Both June 14 and his private office are engaging in a wide range of projects including furniture. Sam’s very first furniture design, Star Bench, created in collaboration with Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge, was developed on the occasion of an exhibition, the group show “F-Utility?”, curated by porter Clark at the Land of Tomorrow Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2010. Built in two parts and assembled onsite around an existing steel column, that could potentially be a tree trunk in a park – the bench is simple and effective. The Star-shaped seat, made of six irregular sized tips welded on a dozen thin poles, marked a meeting point. Rather than an average orthogonal bench, it allowed and increased the number of people to talk, facing one another from multiple positions, resulting in an optimized way of communicating and, above all, forming a community.
Another early furniture design, was the so called Ad Reinhardt SANAA chair. It was assembled by Chermayeff in 2013 as a unique piece, blending gets another, yet transcultural meaning. Here, he has used the iconic and nameless chair of his former employers, the Toykyo architecture firm Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA – a sparse chrome steel chair designed for the Japanese Pavilion at the 8th Venice Architectural Biennale in 2002, at the time curated by Arata Isozaki – and mounted on a backrest an original work by the artist Ad Reinhart, the multiple – titled 9 Square made in 1961, a canvas with resin cast in an aluminum frame that Sam found in the attic of his grandfather Serge’s house. This very object, not only interconnects two continents, and generations, it also amplifies, condenses, the ‘infinite’ of the polished, mirrored seating with the ‘black hole’ of the back rest.
From 2015 onwards, Sam Chermayeff developed two new furniture typologies, a bed and a kitchen, both which literally represent the idea of a community – or, if you like , ‘a joint venture’. His Triangular Bed, by surface 40% larger than an average double bed and occupying more than 4.5m2, can easily be considered a room of one’s own, a hermaphrodite, existing between a service area and a playground that is obviously destined for more than one purpose, be it to rest, relax, have sex or to sleep. The design is taken to such a height that even the bed lien is bespoke, including triangular couture pillows. If the Triangular Bed stresses a common use, the individual elements for the Free Kitchen seem to form a community in itself. Developed first as a prototype ensemble for the architect’s own use, basically designing unique single plinth and stands with specific heights and proportions for some of his own kitchen gear, (toaster, sink, bin, fish tank, etc), and combining them with kitchen furniture, such as the dishwasher, fridge, stove, shelf, and table, the kitchen-concept itself became somehow freestanding, if not liberated. The Free Kitchen, offers a true innovation, actively interacting with other areas of our habitat.
Having so far realised some 50 furniture prototypes, small series and custom-made equipment, from a bathtub stand that includes a massive granite stone to a bespoke steel stool for a concert piano player, from a tiny stove to a monumental street light table, Chermayeff continues to reimagine the use of furniture pieces. Opening on the 15th of October 2021, Chermayeff will present a new body of works, Beasts, in his first solo exhibition at Side Gallery in Barcelona. The body of work is both a continuation and departure of his previous works. Each of the twenty plus works is a body that invites our bodies to inhabit specific settings. A chair is a desk, a hutch is place to put on shoes and make-up, a sofa is a place to face ones interlocutor and so on. Each piece endeavors to engender a new relationship between our diverse physicalities and our everyday lives. In some cases we use these pieces alone and in others they bring us together. We understand ourselves through our interactions with the pieces and we commune with others. Made entirely of galvanized steel, this series is taking a further step by quite literally sharpening our connection to the work. It is reflective and as such we see ourselves. Its forms come from typologies that we understand intuitively. A table is still a table, even if it is also a light that supports its reflecting surface. This reflection might make the object disappear while its function, eating, working and so on come to the fore. It also makes us, doing those things, appear.
Alongside his architecture and furniture design, Chermayeff has taught at the Dessau Institute of Architecture, Columbia University and currently teaches at Cornell University among other institutions. In 2020 he published Creatures [ et al.] with apartamento, a book that looks back through nearly two decades of experimental projects undertaken by the Berlin based architect.