Sometimes you come across a furniture design that leaves a lasting impression, impacting your sense of aesthetics and physics in a way that you never thought was possible. These kinds of furniture include the designs by Danish designer and architect Troels Grum-Schwensen.
Grum-Schwensen and his investigation of how to use the force of gravity as a co-player in locking and stabilising his furniture structures, and how this can be articulated in well-built and easy comprehensible designs, has been one of many focal points of his creative work during his 30-year career.
A graduate from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Space and Furniture Design in 1986, Grum-Schwensen has been featured numerous times at the Cabinet Makers’ Autumn Exhibition in Copenhagen. In 1996, he was featured at the exhibition with a table that utilised an ingenious wire construction to support a thin, long table top, while four years later in 2000, he returned and showcased the easy chair ‘Flying Float’ prototype. The chaise longue-ish chair had a back that could be locked in different positions utilising only the force of gravity and the weight of the sitting person.
Grum-Schwensen is very engaged in the construction of furniture where you utilise the materials to their physical limit. This allows him to create minimal structures, where you don’t use any more material than is needed. To Grum-Schwensen, this commitment is partly due to the fact that it is an exciting task in itself, but it is also relevant when considering how to make the furniture moveable.
“My idea of designing furniture is about working with the construction and giving the construction an expression. I also want to minimise the use of materials, making the furniture easier to move as well as more sustainable, and this it is an interesting challenge”, states Troels Grum-Schwensen.
Some 12 years ago, Grum-Schwensen started to work on various furniture designs, where the legs could be positioned freely on longitudinal aluminium sections. The first design he announced that was based on this design approach was ‘Bench by the metre’, which was exhibited in 2007. With ‘Bench by the metre’, the legs slide in at the end of the aluminium section and lock themselves with the force of gravity when the bench is strained.
“The fact that you can move the legs on the bench is also an example of how the furniture benefits from the utilisation of gravity in a positive, functionalistic way”, says Troels Grum-Schwensen about the ‘Bench by the metre’.
At the beginning of this decade, Grum-Schwensen released his first table based on a similar philosophy. The ‘GRIP’ table has a single continuous and brawny five-rimmed apron, on which the table top ‘balances’ and the sloping pair-of-legs grab onto, almost like a huge pair of tongs. The table’s gable has an appearance of a graphic image with a strongly accentuated centre, from which the legs and table top radiate. Winning a Danish Design Award in 2012 and an AZ Award in 2015, the GRIP table, which is manufactured by Randers+Radius, has also been nominated for two ARCHITIZER A+ Awards.
Grum-Schwensen is educated as an architect, so behind his design work, there’s also an idea of having the ability to create bespoke industrially produced furniture for specific spaces and places.
“I try to take the entirety of furniture and space into consideration when designing – in this way, I foresee different contexts for my designs. Another part of my mindset is to make things honest in their construction, a sort of ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ mantra, you can say. It is all about removing excess details and not covering designs in unnecessary stuff”, says Grum-Schwensen.
One of Grum-Schwensen’s latest released designs is the ‘ATTACH’ table system, launched in 2016 and produced by Lammhults. Just like the ‘Bench by the metre’, the table system locks its legs using the force of gravity, making every part of the construction – in this case, even the table top – essential for the table to stand. This construction, with the two aprons and separated legs, makes this table system exceptionally flexible regarding different shapes and sizes.
And even though several of Grum-Schwensen’s designs depend a lot on gravity, there is still one thing more important than just utilising gravity in his designs – the form.
“The form is the most important aspect of my designs. The form tells the story about a given design. I focus a lot on details, but the details must always be a part of the full story of the furniture, while the furniture itself must be a part of the surrounding space’s story”, says Troels Grum-Schwensen.
And while Grum-Schwensen also intends to work with other tracks in his future furniture designs, the theme ‘the constructive use of gravity’ will hardly leave his creative work right away.