Furniture Commission: Skylarking

Charles Jencks’ former home, The Cosmic House, and its Post-Modern interior is filled with symbolic furniture designed by Jencks himself, and often in collaboration with others. The playful designs mix eclectic historical references, diffuse scales of furniture and architecture, and the mischievous use of materials and surface subvert the relationship between real and fake, copy and original. Testament to his ideas of Ad-Hoc, Jencks mixed references of high culture with the low-brow, and custom-made pieces were complemented by found objects and off-the-shelf elements.

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad’s project Skylarkingis the first furniture commission at The Cosmic House since its opening to the public. Invited with an open brief, Hashemi-Nezhad designed a growing collection of furniture that responds to the evolving public programme of the newly opened museum while engaging with the ideas, symbols, and physical elements within The Cosmic House. Skylarking was devised for Maggie’s Study on the first floor of the building, used for both the display of temporary exhibitions and the study of archival material from the Charles Jencks Archive.

Located within Maggie’s Study, the brief developed from a display surface for the Jencks Foundation’s inaugural exhibition ‘Cosmic, Comic, Cosmetic’ and more recently expanded into a collection of furniture pieces in a spectrum of blues. The resulting works, unexpected yet charming, embrace ideas such as ‘excess’, pluralism and artifice by blending materials, forms and styles.

Playing with symbolism and the notion of fake, both prevalent within the house, the initial piece titled Paper Table was designed as a surface to display drawings, books, maps and other printer matter. A 3mm pine-looking top rests atop a pastel blue structure of two simple columns on a stepped base, suggesting classic order. Here, laminated carbon fibre is disguised as wood, and the table, which embodies the material qualities of paper, gently oscillates as visitors interact with the displayed content.

As the public programme began to develop in the space, the furniture evolved and grew into a collection of functioning pieces including two benches, chairs and a new rigid table top that is now housing the flexible top of the Paper Table under a thick sheet of blue nitrile rubber, a material associated with industrial manufacturing.

The benches and chairs incorporate an ad-hoc collection of backrests reflecting different design values, from a Danish modern classic to ubiquitous IKEA and anonymous Amazon pieces. The skirt-like trim nods to scalloped lead flashing found on traditional facades across the city, while the gloss sheen of the soft rubber surfaces speak of metal and automotive paint.

About The Author

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad produces work spanning designs for the public realm and games, to food, space and products. Drawing on such fields as anthropology, aesthetics and play, his work develops through real-life projects and tools, and actively engages publics within design processes.

He has developed projects, exhibited and conducted masterclasses both in the UK and internationally, including with the Serpentine Galleries; Tokyo Metropolitan Government; Shanghai Biennale; Greater London Authority amongst others. His research focuses on experimental approaches to design education. He trained at the Royal College of Art, in London, where he currently lives, works and plays.

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad
Furniture Commission: Skylarking
Adhocism, Symbolic