Conversation with 6A

© David Grandorge

In October 2012, Arper will launch its flagship showroom in London. The collaboration is currently underway with architect Tom Emerson of the firm 6A Architects.

What is your studio’s approach to architecture?
Our approach is very responsive to context, to place, the client and their requirements. We aim to make spaces that are subtle and quite understated, that build their identity through the use of materials and details. We like to create a strong character without imposing the will of the architect on the users.

What inspires you?
Nature, art, literature are influences. But just as important are the details of everyday life, especially when they display a human response to place and climate. In this respect, we have been hugely inspired by the artist Richard Wentworth.

What was your concept for the showroom?
A simple architectural unit made from different materials in shades of white, inserted into the concrete shell to make a singular backdrop for the furniture. Natural lime plaster, bleached oak and enameled cast aluminum will form a soft, finely crafted space open on two sides to the street. We have tried to make a space where there is a direct and primary connection between architectural space and furniture. The secondary details of the architecture — doors, iron-mongery, architraves, skirtings — have been stripped away to create a strong but simple relationship between space, light and furniture.

What is the nature of the original site and the neighborhood?
The site is in the heart of Clerkenwell in East London, which is now the center for architecture and design in London. Historically, it was the city’s Italian quarter, a center of manufacturing of precision engineering for clocks and scientific instrument. As a result, the urban fabric is characterized by many industrial buildings.
The showroom is on a fantastically visible corner of Clerkenwell so transparency and visibility will be a key. I hope it will inject a calm pause along the busy street.

What was it like to collaborate with Arper?
Upon first meeting Claudio Feltrin and the furniture designer Alberto Lievore, we discovered a shared enthusiasm for literature — Italo Calvino in particular — and, of course, architecture and furniture design. Conversations with Arper are always a very holistic affair, touching on many subjects beyond design yet expanding our understanding of the challenges at hand.
I really respect the way that Arper has harnessed the technology and craft knowledge around Treviso from high-tech plastics and precision steel fabrication to beautifully hand-finished leather upholstery. And, they still find time to share meals together at lunchtime. Knowledge, innovation, craftsmanship and quality of life — there’s a good natural system.

What is the relationship for A6 of architecture and furniture?
I like the relationship to be loose and flexible. In the 18TH Century, before gas lamps and central heating, furniture was very light so it could be moved around towards the light of a window or the warmth of the fire. I like this idea that the architecture is calm and simple, bringing in good daylight, and, in response, furniture is arranged to meet changing requirements of need. Arper furniture fits; it is light and elegant to the eye and to use.

What do you think makes “good design”?
Lightness. Exactitude. Simplicity.

London Showroom opening October 2012
11 Clerkenwell Road
London EC1M 5PA

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