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English Sycamore

140cm x 110cm x 24cm

In 2013 I visited an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London dedicated to the architect Richard Rogers. It made me consider how differently architects and furniture makers view structure.

With furniture typically the elements that give a piece its rigidity are the joints, whilst in architecture it often seems to me that what holds a building together, giving it strength, is simply the mass of the components combined with the building's own weight (for any architects out there yes, I know this is a gross over-simplification).

The simplest example I can think of is dry stone walling: yes, the rocks need to fit together, but it's a matter of balance rather than adhesion: in the end, gravity is what holds it up (pun intended).

Richard Rogers was one of the group of architects who designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris in the 70s and there were several models and pictures of this building in the exhibition. Architecturally their design was innovative in that the functional structural elements are on display on the outside of the building, instead ofbeing hidden within .

This set me thinking about trying something similar with a piece of furniture: turning the structure inside out.

The other thing I discovered looking at the models was the way the structure was supported by a system of cantilevers: the weight of the structure supported by pillars (in compression) and struts (in tension) on the outside of the building. Again could I do something similar with a piece of furniture?

After much thinking, sketching and evaluating options, I arrived at the design of the bookstack. The shelves converge towards a supporting central column, and are angled so that the weight of the books tends towards the centre. The struts between the shelves act as pivots of cantilevers. But then, the idea developed further : how about hiding the vertical pieces altogether, so that the shelves filled with books seem to somehow float unsupported?

I initially thought about making them out of glass or acrylic but wasn't quite sure of how well these materials would function structurally: they needed to be strong both in compression and tension. Finally it struck me: use wooden components but disguise them as books! As Father Brown mused: where does a wise man hide a leaf? In the forest. I wasnt sure about using real books both in terms of copyright and in terms of the danger of choosing books that potential clients would not like so I just made them up! I chose a selection of quotes from various authors in different fields and I asked my friend Vanessa Adams to turn them into book covers!

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