Director Luke Hughes speaks about the unique approach we take in order to design 'furniture in architecture':
I used to say I was a furniture designer but as the years have gone by I realised I’ve become more of a social anthropologist.
I was lucky enough to be brought up in the surroundings of extraordinary architecture, going back for seven hundred years. My school, my college, my home… were all organic buildings that had great architecture and inevitably, because some of them were ruined or were being built, some of them were modern, we got behind the façades and started looking at how they were constructed.
It occurred to me that there was a connection between furniture and architecture that both furniture designers and architects had failed to grasp. Buildings, apart from a triumphal arch have nouse until there is a table to sit at or a chair to sit on but if you put the wrong table or chair into great architecture, you completely diminish the building.
People have always assumed that, because I started as a maker of craft furniture, this is all about wood. Actually, 65% of what we do is in wood, roughly 35% is in steel and glass and stone. What we are doing is applying craftsman techniques with 21st-century engineering standards. We’re working on 2,000 chairs with tolerances of + 0.01mm.
This requires a big speciality team, a team of engineers, a team logistics experts, a team of designers – it’s a big operation; it has to be if we are working on an international level.
One major theme in the Luke Hughes approach to ‘furniture in architecture’ is that the products should enable high-quality buildings to be capable of multiple uses, something that largely depends on the adaptability of the furniture.
All those significant public spaces that proclaim the values of a school or university, they increasingly require tables to fold, chairs to stack, trolleys to make handling and storage efficient. And the great thing in all of this is that, if you do enable that to happen, the commercial possibilities for those buildings become enormously more varied and potentially profitable for the institutions that use them.
One of the things I learned from studying History of Architecture is that the building is just as much a client as the client is. So for me as a furniture designer (which is why I say I’ve become a kind of social anthropologist), we’ve got to think very much about the impact that every single piece of furniture has on those interiors and do the minimum that is necessary to enable the building to function without in any way diminishing the quality of that particular space. And a lot of that, of course, comes down to the furniture.