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Jing Zhang


romantic furniture based on hybrid culture

Jing Zhang 11067107 Bachelor Final Thesis Integrated Design Fachhochschule Kรถln Production Technology 1st Examinator: Prof. Wolfgang Laubersheimer 2nd Examinator: Prof. Hatto Grosse 25 June 2013

Acknowledgement At first I want to thank Professor Wolfgang Laubersheimer and Professor

Hatto Grosse for their expert help and guidance in the preparation of this paper. I am also very thankful for Professor Günter Horntrich’s expert

advice. I must express particular thanks to Arsène van de Bilt (Rotterdam),

who took the time to read this paper in manuscript and give his suggestions and corrections. I strongly thank Xuyan Chen for helping me with the

concept visualization. I am also thankful to Christoph Leistenschneider,

Sebastian Heilmann, Christian Zander and Malte Maximilian Mäsgen for their help with the model. I want to thank all my friends, who were also

working hard for their thesis and encouraged me all the time: Anna Wang, Carmen Katharina Johann, Matthias Fenkes, Andreas Breilmann, Marijke Doemges, Martina Alexandra Treeter, Vladislav Alukhanov and Manuel Born. I particular thank Ying Zhang (London), who encouraged me the

most. Above all, my greatest thanks goes out to my dear parents, without their generous support I could not have finished this thesis.

Foreword 04 Chapter One: Hybrid and Innovation 07 1.1 Japan is not MUJI 08

1.2 Opposites are complementary 16 1.3 Summary 38

Chapter Two: The role of metaphors

in design innovation 39

2.1 The dynamic and creative role of metaphor 41 2.2 Summary 54

Chapter Three: ‘Poetry’ from past to future 55 3.1 Relaxing, comfortable and enjoyable 56 3.2 A piece of furniture calls ‘Poetry’ 68 Chapter Four: Summary 92 Notes 95



“A piece of furniture called poetry. She is a hybrid mixture from past and future, from west and east. She has a vague and familiar temperament — and she’s romantic.” In this thesis I discuss how design can be a hybrid mixture of indigenous traditions and other forms imported from abroad by cultural exchange, and could still fit in the local conditions. To better understand this kind of contradictory but complementary relationship between tradition and modernity, the design criticism theory of Chris Abel and an Eastern world perspective are introduced. Moreover, several pairs of bi-polar concepts, the ‘constructs’, are conceived to discuss innovation based on traditions.

Furthermore, using metaphors as a method in design creativities is also discussed. In the dynamic relationship between human and their (natural, social and cultural) environment, metaphors play a significant role in design creativities. Understanding the value of metaphor in changing concepts could help us to generate more positive forms of change than only imitating and following what we are already familiar with. In the practical part, a hybrid design is made by studying the traditional Chinese furniture and modern technology. Regarding the sitting positions and living conditions, I focus on furniture and spatial distribution in the living room. Metaphors are used to generate new shapes from the traditional ones.


Chapter One Hybrid and Innovation

1.1 Japan is not MUJI What I knew about Japanese modern style was mostly from MUJI, a Japanese household products retail company. The name is abbreviation of mujirushi ryōhin — “good stuff with no brand”.

MUJI, an international brand, is famous for its concise minimalistic design. This lifestyle, or may be perhaps this life philosophy, through MUJI fascinates a lot of people outside Japan. But it is

hard to say for them whether MUJI becomes attractive because of Japan, or Japan becomes more

mysterious because of MUJI. MUJI fulfills a Japanese dream outside Japan. But Japan, is not MUJI. 10

Just like MUJI is not Japan, the minimalism is not the only style in Japan. On the contrary, there is as much maximalism as minimalism. The Japanese pop culture, which is often related to the Japanese

animations and comics, has become one of the dominant cultures. Western culture is very welcome in Japan too: western food, western clothing and western manners. Things from western culture

are called ‘洋’(Yō), (meaning ‘over the sea’), and they have become a part of everyday life. But just like how Japan is perceived by Europeans, the Western style, which is adepted by Japanese local culture, is also considered romantic and elegant by Japanese.

Picture 1-1: Cover of Muji Catalogue of 2009—2010. Muji is distinguished by its minimalist design, avoidance of waste in production and packaging, and no-logo or “no-brand” policy.


From the example above, it is clear, when we talk about something is romantic or rational, the context should be considered. Something could be considered romantic or special, but with

different context it could be very rational. Romance and rationality exist as a pair — as their opposites, and complementary.

Picture 1-2: apanese fashion magazine Scawaii, May 2011.

12 Dying hair blond is nowadays very popular and considered fashionable. A large variety of accessories and decoration like lace are used to achieve cute outfits.


Picture 1-3(top), 1-4(left): the Japanese magazines with very different layout design: minimalist vs. maximalist, in the same book store. 2012, Fukuoka, Japan.

2012, Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan. Akihabara,

“You are more likely to hear it referred to as

Tokyo. It is famous for its shopping area for

among the manga and anime fans who are

also known as Electric Town, is a district in

electronics, anime, games, but also specially for otaku (geek) services and goods.

Picture 1-5: Akihabara Electric Town, , Tokyo, Japan.


AKIBA, which is the more common nickname drawn by its gravitational pull, as Akihabara has morphed into the centre of the known otaku (geek) universe.� 1


Picture 1-6: The phenomenom maid cafĂŠ started in Japan and spread throug Asian. The waitresses in the cafĂŠ or restaurant dress up as maid (mostly based on French maids) and behave very humble towards customers. Otaku are usually their target group. In the picture a maid is handing out flyers in front of Akihabara station.


Picture 1-7: Fukuoka, Japan, 2012: Nishitetsu Inn Fukuoka Hotel (yellow), Fukuoka Museum of Literature (magenta) and Suikyo Tenmangu Shrine (cyan). The difference between the buildings clearly shows how architecture changed through time. The old buildings are now considered romantic and mysterious.


1.2 Opposites are complementary Western and Eastern styles are generally described, consciously or not, as opposites. But thanks to the difference and the contrast between them, we can learn from each other, and understand our

own cultures from a different viewpoint. Just like in Japan, the two opposite cultures gradually mix together, and generate a new hybrid culture. This is a process to discover something by learning

its opposite. In this process, the opposites are complementary, and innovation is to find a ‘dynamic balance’. 18

But this perspective is not familiar to the Western. People are used to categorizing the objects into separated groups, but overlook the connection in between.

The Eastern world view, which is embodied in the major Eastern philosophical and religious

systems such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen, can help us to understand this process. Fritjof Capra writes in his book ‘the Tao of Physics’:

“The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view — one could almost say the essence of it — is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena

in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness. All things are seen as

interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different

manifestations of the same ultimate reality. The Eastern traditions constantly

refer to this ultimate, indivisible reality which manifests itself in all things, and of which all things are parts. It is called Brahman in Hinduism, Dharmakaya in Buddhism, Tao in Taoism. Because it transcends all concepts and categories,

Buddhists also call it Tathata, or Suchness... In ordinary life, we are not aware

of this unity of all things, but divide the world into separate objects and events. This division is, of course, useful and necessary to cope with our everyday

environment, but it is not a fundamental feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating and categorizing intellect. To believe that our abstract concepts of separate things and events are realities of nature is an illusion”2.[Capra, F., 1975]

To understand innovation, we should not just divide objects in absolute styles, but build a related constructs, which emphasize on their complementary and ambiguous nature. These related

constructs should be a specific pair of bi-polar concepts, like “new” and “old”, “empirical” and

“intuitive”, “mechanistic” and “organic”, “universal” and “particular”, “rational” and “romantic”...3

[Chris Abel, 2000.] Every pair of constructs compose the necessary tension of innovation. They

would be seen as -∞ and +∞ (negative infinity and positive infinity) of one axis. Creativity actions tend to find the next balance point between different tensions.


New — old Once my 70 year old grandma was watching TV, and after awhile she said, “See? The old fashion

is coming back. This style was popular twenty years ago.” She used to be a tailor, and has a great memory for fashion styles. So when the models with flared jeans were on TV, she recognized

immediately the style. She was right, but not a hundred percent. The new flared pants were made in different materials and the shape was also slightly changed — that was the redesign of the old

style. When we want to create something new, we always say, we should get rid of the old concept in our brain. But nothing comes from nothing. The creative process does not reject old ideas, but 20

mostly analogizes the existing similar paradigms and use them to create new combinations or

situations. Something could be seen as old, but through innovation considered as new again. When Le Corbusier conceived of his ‘house as a machine for living in’, machines had already existed for

hundreds if not thousands years. But before him there was absolutely no relation between those two old concepts.

Picture 1-8 (next page): Dubblehous by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Stuttgart Weissenhof Estate, 1927. Le Corbusier introduced the concept of machines into architecture. The dimensions of this ‘Doublehouse’ are based on a machine, a train to be specific.


Another example about the relation between new and old is the IKEA Windsor Chair. The Windsor Chair originated in England, and became popular both in England and North America by 18th

century.4 This specific form existed as early as the 16th century, as wheelwrights started coping out chair spindles in the same way they made wheel spokes.5

IKEA PS 2012 armchair maintains the traditional structure of Windsor Chair. The name PS stands for postscript and thereby summarizes the special furniture and accessories for the Ikea home

collection. This new chair represents the traditional design in a hilarious refreshingly strange way. 6 22

Picture 1-9/10 (next page): Left: Windsor chair, about 1770. Armchair. Right: IKEA PS 2012


Empirical and intuitive Creations from science and art are often distinguished because of their different work

methodologies. People usually believe that scientists work on the demonstrated facts, while the artists, even designers, rely on the illusive inspiration. But actually, artists are also inspired by

the demonstrated facts, and they often reconstruct several very different phenomenon into one unit. Meaning, the creation process is more like a net than a string. This analogous thinking for the scientists is as important as for the artists. In the early 19th century the scientists isolated 24

and identified benzene. The empirical formula for benzene was long known, but its highly

polyunsaturated structure, with just one hydrogen atom for each carbon atom, was challenging to determine. Until 1865 the German chemist Friedrich August KekulĂŠ once dreamed about snake forming a ring by seizing its own tail. This became his inspiration to solve the conundrum. The

same year, he published a paper in French suggesting that the structure contained a six-membered

ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds. Although later proven that KekulÊ’s structure was not exactly right, it was the very basement for later revelations.


Picture 1-11: Naoto Fukasawa, Muji CD player7. Inspired by the action of turning on a ventilation fan, Fukasawa designed this innovative CD player.


Picture 1-12,13,14: Plugg radio box by Skrekkogle.

Although “Plugg” is still a prototype, the concept of this DAB radio stands out by investigating physical and metaphorical interaction with electronic devices. “A cork fits nicely into the hole where the radio’s speaker sits beneath. By pushing the cork into this hole, the radio turns off. And by removing it, the radio turns itself on again.” described by skrekkogle designers.8


Rational and romantic Talking about rational design, Abel says9, “ Rationality is usually equated with a strictly deductive approach, (to design), takes the designer from supposedly irrefutable truths to inevitable

conclusions in the manner of a syllogism”.Rational design’s creed is: Same premises produces

the same outcomes, regardless geographical or cultural context. Design is functional because it is

reasonable. By contrast, romantic design avoid to be abstract and universal, but take fully concrete

lively real world into consideration. But the very pure rationality could not exist in design, because 28

humans world could not be described by any single formula. Abel believes, rationality might also

be equated with critical awareness. And in that case, just like Abel described10, “the design which

makes good social and cultural sense, including regional variations, is more truly rational than the one does not.”

Picture 1-15: Plastic-Classic Chair by Pili Wu (next page) Plastic-Classic Chair is a hybrid of rational and

plastic product factories. It becomes “classic” with

romantic design. The plastic stool is used everywhere

an anonymous designer. By contrast, the loop chair

in Taiwan, on streets, alleys, and by street food stalls

is another classic of traditional Chinese furniture,

or ban dou (traditional Taiwanese outdoor banquet,

its elegant and reliable structure represents a

seen at weddings or celebrations). Its cheap price,

certain social status and position. By combining

simple structure caused its popularity, especially

them together, Pili Wu’s Chair represents the

in Taiwan, where there are a lot of big professional

transformation of Taiwanese local cultures.11


Picture 1-15: MU Cutlery by Toyo Ito for Alessi.

The slim hexagon handles of the MU cutlery easily remind you of chopsticks, which is exactly what Ito want to express12: “Sharp, yet with a touch of sensitivity and elegance... Linear, yet with an organic quality of plants... We intend to shift our familiar sensations with chopsticks onto cutlery.�


Picture 1-16: ‘Dami’ by Song Seungyong

The ‘Dami’ gets its name from Korean, meaning ‘to

also a combination of a new eco-friendly materials

put in’.

called Valchromat and CNC processing technique

The Dami series consist of basket shapes and covers

make it possible to materialize modern objects with

and are available for various different usages

traditional beauty.” explained Seung Yong Song. 13

depending on shape and size. It shows visual beauty as well as the structure of Korean traditional grille which is light but also has sturdy durability. It’s


Universal and particular When we talk about something ‘local’, we usually indicate the regional design, which has a cultural and historical background. In contrast, modern products are considered universal. But in fact,

“most regional architecture in history comprises a hybrid mixture of indigenous traditions and other forms which were imported from abroad by cultural exchange of one kind or another, and then adapted to local conditions”.14[Adel, 2000] The same goes for design, but the local

aspect would also be available in other regions, where share the similar cultural and climatic


characteristics. In this way, local is global.

Just like this Chinese loop chair below, it is considered as the symbol of Chinese style. But when

we look long enough back into the history of chairs, we will found out, that Chinese chairs came

originally from the foreign countries, where is today’s Mongolian or Russian. The ancient Chinese sat on the ground as same as the Japanese. Instead of chair, sitting mats were the most important sitting furniture. “Chairman” in Chinese is actually “Matman”. 15 Once ‘chair’ was adapted, it developed according to local customs and aesthetics.

Picture 1-17: Loop chair from Ming dynasty, China.(about 14th to 17th)


On the other hand, the difference between different regions in the world becomes smaller and smaller because of industrial mass production and economic globalization. The concept of

democratic design give more people possibility to afford and enjoy design, but at the same time it

pushes the process of assimilation. The demand for personalized and customized design becomes

bigger and bigger. Everyone likes being special, and everyone is unique. There is a huge potential to make personalized objects from the standard mass produced products in an innovative way.


Picture 1-18: Richard Hutten , Tea Pot 2013 This design is one in the serie for the Droog workshop and later the exhibition “copy China” in Guangzhou. The exhibition is aimed to satirize “design copying” in China, and to explore innovation through imitation. 16

Picture 1-19: Part of the first page of “Gospel

ornament styles together — from Celtic

of Matthew”, the so called “Stockholm Codex

interlace to the byzantine birds and animals

Aureus”. Stockholm, Swedish Royal library.

patterns to the spirals inspirited by the Far East. 17

The very Celtic-Scandinavian stylish texts are finely decorated. It combined different


Picture 1-20 (Left): Japanese plane. Picture 1-21 (Right): European plane from Dictum Japanese carpenters plane a surface by pulling


These very similar planes distinguish from each

back the plane, while the Europeans normally

other by the small handle — the handle is only

push. The different work gestures decide the

necessary on the European plane, because the

particular shape of this universal tool.

Mechanistic and organic We are fanatical about the usage of machines into every aspect of life for more than three

hundreds year. The invention of machines is so exciting, because we believe that we found a way

to be as creative and powerful as nature, or even much more. Even the universe, according to the mechanism, could work as simple as a gigantic machine. In that case the humans, who invented machines, have the right to dominate nature. However, recent developments in science and

technology, especially ecology, reverse many of these assumptions. Nature, which is much more complicated and wise than any machines, has her own way to keep her countless life forms in

dynamic equilibrium.18 Human, as only part of nature, have untold things to learn from nature. And instead of treating nature as if it is a machine built for the exclusive use of humankind, we should now do our creativities in a more responsive and responsible way regarding nature.


Picture 1-20: “Ingenuity follows Nature” by He Jianpin, 2011.

He uses mechanical, straight lines to convey the intangible traces suggested by Tong Yang-tze’s calligraphy, the movement of which was unique and irreproducible.19



Picture 1-20: Hangzhou Stool by Miles Chen, 2013. Chen wants to present a peaceful but dynamic

the ripples on the water surface. When sitting

sprite of the nature with this stool, which

down, the more weight the stool receives, the

consists of many layers of very thin bamboo

deeper the arc will be bent in the center, and

veneer. He ingeniously use the property of this

therefore the more elasticity the user will feel.”

natural material to form an adjustable elastic

says Chen. 20

seat surface. “The layers of bamboo veneer give a very special “arc” of the stool, just like

1.3 Summary Time is unlimited. Modernity is timeless. As humans, we never stopped and stop to create

modernity from tradition. Just like the pairs of constructs, modernity and tradition are hard, and should not be separated. This is a process of creating hybrids and redesigning, and to achieve

that there has to be a dynamic equilibrium between the different tensions. Chris Abel introduces the theory of Thomas Kuhn and George Kubler into design in order to explain the relationship of tradition, innovation and change. According to him, 21 “learning by example, …, is presented 40

as the principal mechanism of cultural development.” He also emphasises on the importance

of metaphors: “Analogical thinking is at the centre of innovation: making connections between existing but previously unrelated thought,..., or seeing new in terms of the old.”

Chapter Two The role of metaphors in design innovation

Based on what we learned from the discussion from chapter one we know that metaphors

can help us to get a better understanding of the changes in the past, but it can also help us to generate positive kinds of change that we have been accustomed to seeing in recent time. The concept of metaphors has a long history. The oldest broadly used definition of it is

from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who stressed the cognitive transfer involved between concepts related to analogies22:


“Metaphor consists in giving a thing a name that belongs to something

else; the transference being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on grounds of analogy... That

from analogy is possible whenever there are for terms so related that the second (B) is to the first (A) as the fourth (D) is to the third (C), for one many then metaphorically put D in lieu of B and B in lieu of D.”

But this is neither the only definition nor the only truth for metaphors. Aristotle also

described that metaphors can give style, clearness, charm and distinction as nothing else could, and the ability to use metaphors could not be taught by one to another. Similarly,

metaphors can also be considered as an essential decoration or ornament to enliven style. 23

Abel summarized three types of metaphors from the studies of D. Berggren24:

“First, the ‘structure’ metaphor involves an abstract relation of structures by analogy and therefore lies towards the rational end of the spectrum.

Secondly, there is the ‘textural’ metaphor, based on an emotional intuition of similarity or disparity between concepts, usually involving an indirect association of images conveyed through words... Thirdly, the ‘isolated

pictorial’ metaphor involves, as the name suggests, a direct association between different visual images and falls somewhere between the two

poles, since it comprises both objective and emotional components. The

three types in turn appeal to intellectual, poetic and visual sensitivities.” 2.1 The dynamic and creative role of metaphor Nothing comes from nothing. Metaphors helps us to find hints from the past, and therefore lead us to seeing one thing in terms of another. Donald Schon described such cognitive

thinking as ‘the displacement of concepts’. Essentially, this is the process of all innovative activities. 25

The ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphor It is very common to generate new concepts using an ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphor, since it is

strongly related to visual communication. An interesting example could help us to understand how ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphors can be used. Our example will be based on the concept of ‘chairs’. When looking back and comparing different cultures it becomes clear that a ‘chair’

was not a piece of furniture to ‘rest’ on, the very first chair was actually a throne and it spoke ‘authority’. 26


Picture 2-1 shows a statuette of the mother goddess of Cantal Hüyük, one of the oldest ancient cities in the world and the statuette was discovered by archaeologist in Turkey. In this picture we can see a corpulent naked woman, who is generally considered to be the mother goddess in the process of giving birth while sitting on her ‘throne’, which is actually on an elevated

floor, with her hands resting on the heads of leopards besides her. The composition of this

goddess ‘throne’ derives all the elements of a throne later on: legs in the shape of leopards, a voluminous seat, the tails and backs as backrest and the leopards’ heads as armrests. 27 44

Picture 2-1: mother goddess of Catal Hüyük. 28

Picture 2-2: Chaise longue. 1805. Victoria & Albert Museum. London.29

Similarly, this kind of metaphor was also used on the British Regency style Chaise Longue

from early 19th century (pic. 2-2) to express wealth as well as authority. In 1805 Gillow & Co. of Lancaster and London made this example for Reverend Edward Hughes (1738-1815), who

became a wealthy man through exploitation of a copper mine. He commissioned the architect Samuel Wyatt (1737-1807) to design Kinmel Park, Denbighshire and Wales for him (built in

1790-1810), and subsequently ordered a large set of seat furniture, including this couch, from Gillow & Co. for his new house.30


Another famous example using an ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphor is the “Door handle Series

1144” designed by Jasper Morrison for the German company FSB GmbH. During his project

he underlined the “Ready-Made” concept, which he applied in his earlier works. He came to believe it was the designer’s job to consciously apply an existing form in the right place at

the right time instead of inventing a new one. And then he started his new way of working, “recycling” old shapes. His door handle was inspired by a photo of a couch handle, and he morphed the shape of a light bulb and a wing nut into the doorknob.31

Picture 2-3(left): an old coach handle which Morrison found at a catalogue of carriages,


which (picture 2-4 right) later on leaded directly to the FSB door handle in 1990.


Picture 2-5,6: FSB “Door handle Series 1144” by Jasper Morrison. 1990.

The ‘structure’ metaphor The ‘structure’ metaphors are metaphors used as a form of expression and a tool of analysis. They are apt examples of Aristotle’s definition. In this case metaphors build a connection

between old and new— creatively applying old concepts to new situations. The following

example can explain this very well. Le Corbusier got revelations from ancient paintings and

architecture, and introduced geometric elements in his book ‘The Modulor’, where he wrote his revelations as a young man in Paris32: 48

“One day, under the oil lamp in his little room in Paris, some picture postcards were spread out on his table. His eye(s) lingered on a picture of Michelangelo’s Capitol in Rome. He

turned over another card, face downward, and intuitively projected one of its angles (a right angle) on to the facade of the Capitol. Suddenly he was struck afresh by a familiar truth: the

right angle governs the composition; the lieux (lieu de l’angle droit: place of the right angle)

command(s) the entire composition. This was to him a revelation, a certitude. The same test

worked with a painting by Cézanne. But he mistrusted his own verdict, saying to himself that the composition of works of art is governed by rules; these rules may be conscious methods, pointed and subtle, or they may be commonplace rules, tritely applied. They may also be

implied by the creative instinct of the artist, a manifestation of an intuitive harmony, as was almost certainly the case with Cézanne: Michelangelo being of a different nature, with a tendency to follow preconceived and deliberate, conscious designs.

A book brought him certainty: some pages in Auguste Choisy’s book on the ‘History of

Architecture’ devoted to the tracé regulateur (regulating lines). So there were such things as regulating lines to govern composition?

In 1918 he began to paint in earnest. The first two pictures were composed haphazardly.

The third, in 1919, was an attempt to cover the canvas in an ordered manner. The result was

almost good. Then came the fourth painting, reproducing the third in an improved form, with a categorical design to hold it together, enclosed it, give it a structure. Then came a series of

pictures painted in 1920 (exhibited at the Galerie Druet, 1921); all these are firmly founded on geometry. Two mathematical expedients were used in these paintings: the place of the right angle and the golden mean.”

In order to find systems of harmony and proportion, Le Corbusier derived a mathematical order of the universe from the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. The analogical thinking, which stands for ‘structure’ metaphor, is the essence of his creativities.


Picture 2-7: Campidoglio (Capitol Hill) in Rome. Michelangelo systematizes the irregular site with an egg-shaped oval paving pattern. Engraving by Étienne DupÊrac (1525-1604), 1568.


Picture 2-8:Le Corbusier. The Modulor. 1948.


The ‘textural’ metaphor In contrast to the rational and analogical thinking of the ‘structure’ metaphor, the ‘textural’ metaphor aims to fully arouse emotional responses, and to enrich the meaning of designs. A very famous example of ‘textural’ metaphor in design is the lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck for Alessi. Starck later stated, in fact, that the aim of his design is to criticise the 52

function of objects. The actual function of the lemon squeezer is not squeezing lemons, but provoking conversations. 33

Picture 2-9: Alessi lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck


Another example of applying ‘textural’ metaphors is Masanori Umeda’s seat-group Tawaraya for Memphis. It is composed of a boxring and a traditional Japanese Tatami. Symbolizing the combativeness of postmodernism. 34


Picture 2-9 (next page): Boxring Tawaraya. Masanori Umeda. 1981. (From left to right: Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Nathalie du Pasquier, George Sowden, Aldo Cibis, Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Barbara Radice and Ettore Sottsass.)


Summary Metaphors help us find an innovative way to look at new situations by studying old concepts. The ‘structure’ metaphor and ‘textural’ metaphor separately stand for the rational thinking and emotional sensibility. They are like two pillars symbolizing the function of metaphors. The ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphor stands between the previously mentioned pillars, and is 56

widely used for designs. Understanding metaphors can help us analyse history better, but it can also help us to create concepts in a more creative way.

Chapter Three ‘Poetry’ from past to future

When we talk about poetry we will think about abstract, rhythmic and emotional text. It’s romantic. It comes both from somewhere far away as well as from the deepest part of our heart. I want to use a metaphor of traditional furniture to arouse an enjoyable but gentle

context. I focus on furniture and spatial distribution in the drawing room. By studying the

living habits and conditions, I try to interconnect the traditional poetic context to the modern lifestyle.

3.1 Relaxing, comfortable and enjoyable 58

Relaxing I focus on enjoyable situations at home, mainly in the ‘drawing’ room. The name of ‘drawing room’ originally comes from the concept of “withdrawing from work” — a concept of a personal space for relaxing and refreshing. How do we relax? Life today has changed a lot compared to hundreds of years ago. Nowadays, we take a walk not because we need to go somewhere, but because we want to get relaxed from sitting all day long at work. At home, we get even more changes: the first change is the invention of

the television and telephone. Their names already explain part of their function or ability:

‘tele’ meaning ‘distant’ — a sight and a voice from far away. Intentionally or not, this marks

the begin of a ‘flat’ world. Technological advances have not only changed our world view, but also our life schedule. It’s common now that people sit in front of a computer and

relax by watching movies, browsing the internet etc., even-though they might work using a

computer doing very similar things. Electronic products, especially mobile ones, became an indispensable part in our everyday life. Causing a vague division between ‘drawing’ room, dinner room, work room and so on. What we want nowadays is a place where we can do everything.


Picture 3-1 : “dinner table as center at home”. Photo by Marcel Reiner Schmitt.

Comfortable When people got accustomed to relaxing, they wanted more, they wanted things to be more 60

comfortable mostly. Although carpenters had made a lot of progress and underwent a lot of

change in furnishing, the concept of ‘being comfortable’ had not been popularized to a large

audience in most cultures; until the ‘middle class’ emerged. “The invention of the middle class injected new levels of demand into society.”35

We say “make yourself comfortable” to make another person feel at ease, so he can hopefully relax and doesn’t feel cautious. Making someone comfortable also means considering less about the customs and etiquette.

Picture 3-2: “I make myself comfortable at home.� Photo by Lena Wunderlich.


An interesting kind of furnishing to mention is a day bed. It widely exists in different cultures all over the world. At the famous ancient Roman banquets there were usually 3 day beds forming 3 sides of a small square, so that the ‘triclinium’ (the dining room of a Roman 62

residence) could be used for a party. The Chinese day bed, which originally is named “monk

bed”(Luohan Chuang), can be used as a bed to sleep during the day, but it can also be used as a seat. There is usually a side table on it, so that people can eat, drink or play GO chess on it.

But not everyone can sit on it, only very important people can be invented to sit with the host together. The widest spreaded daybed is the Chaise longue, which is a specific kind of sofa

and comes from France. The name literally means ‘long chair’, but it is distinct by its soft and

smooth shape. When it was introduced in Great Britain, the British considered it was immoral because of its provoking and teasing shape.35Regardless of the shape however , the concept of the day bed remains the same — make someone comfortable.

Picture 3-3: the Roman ‘triclinium’.


Picture 3-4: the Chinese ‘Luohan Chuang’


Picture 3-5: Venus Victrix on Chaise Longue(1800), Marmor, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.


Enjoyable In the dictionary ‘enjoyable’ is explained as: entertaining, amusing, agreeable, pleasurable, diverting, engaging, delightful, to one’s liking, pleasant, congenial, convivial, lovely, fine,

good, great, delicious, delectable, satisfying, gratifying; marvelous, wonderful, magnificent, splendid; (informal) super, fantastic, fabulous, fab, terrific, magic, killer. 66

From relaxing to comfortable, to enjoyable, there are more and more regards to emotional

need. There are numerous things which can cause enjoyment. Three general groups of things that can cause enjoyment are: I. Food We are not strange with the proverb: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Food is not just one of our basic needs, it’s also the key to opening one’s heart and causing strong emotions.

Picture 3-6: “A Roman Feast” by Roberto Bompiani, late 19th century.


II. Interaction People enjoy themselves in a smooth flowing interaction, like a delightful chat or sweet

kisses etc. For these activities, multiple participants are required. The difference in dynamic activities between different participants can increase the enjoyment. 68 III. Aesthetic

Here the aesthetic does not only refer to visual quality, but to a wider understanding of all

that is pleasant by its presence. For example, it could refer to the fine shape of a glass, but also the sound it makes to toast.

Picture 3-7: (part) ‘Han xizai banquet painting’. On silk. GuHong zhong. The Palace Museum, Beijing.


3.2 A piece of furniture calls ‘Poetry’ Target: creating a multi-functional room where people can relax, use the computer, enjoy

food and spending time with others. Its shape should be a redesign of an existing daybed. The metaphor should be used to represent the tradition in a poetic and gentle way.


Picture 3-8: Verner Panton, Phantasy Landscape, Visiona 2, Cologne Furniture Fair, 1970.

Picture 3-9: Colombo, Joe. Central Living Block, 1969.

Picture 3-10: Masanori Umeda.Tawaraya, 1981.


Picture 3-11: Luigi Colani. Living pad “Pool”, 1970/71.

Picture 3-12: Wave. Living Block.



Concept: ‘Poetry’ should be a modular system, which consists of long chairs and side tables/ stools.

With them people can build different seat groups, for examples, the ‘Chaise Longue’ (one chair with two side tables/stools), the ‘Triclinium’ (three chairs with one side table) or the ‘Tatami’ (four chairs with one side table).


Sketch Nr. 1


Sketch Nr. 2


Sketch Nr. 3


Sketch Nr. 4


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Sketch Nr. 6


Auto-critique: 1. When several chairs are used together to create a new sitting environment, the arm of the long chair will cause a closed space. So how about a more open space?

2. Where is the boundary of the abstract? Where is the boundary of romantic and rational? 3. Where is the boundary between what is tradition and modern? 4. How has the meaning of romantic changed through time, through the development of technique? What is the relationship between technique and romantic?


Rethinking Material: natural vs. synthetic



Rethinking Structure: organic vs. mechanical (mortice and tenon joint)



Final concept: The meaning of new and old, romantic and rational, organic and mechanical etc. is all relative. They are each others’ opposite, and they’re also complementary. Their definitions are all

related and can be changed through time. Just like the Chinese traditional mechanical mortise and tenon joint in furniture: it was necessary to have this kind of elegant and smart solution, but nowadays there are many variants of this thanks to technique development. However,

people today are still amazed at traditional inventions, and we see it as a piece of art from 88

history. Therefore, the meaning of this structure at this point shifts from rational to romantic. To represent the poetic property of the traditional technique, I chose a pair of very contrary

materials — Poly(methyl methacrylate) (acrylic glass) and wood — to finish the mortise and

tenon joint. Transparent vs. solid, synthetic vs. natural, cold vs. warm, modern vs. traditional. It’s modern poetry greeting the tradition.







In this thesis, I tried to find and build a connection between tradition and modernity, between Eastern and Western. The starting point is the poetic property of traditional designs and the exotic style. Through the case study of Japanese designs, a new viewpoint is introduced from the classical Eastern philosophy. Which is: ‘opposites are complementary’. Regarding this point of view, the definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘rational’ and ‘romantic’, ‘universal’ and ‘particular’... are all relative description, and can change to their opposite, when they are with different context. The examples in this parts confirm the truth of that, innovation is the process of finding the dynamic balance between these related constructs. After found the essence of innovation, metaphor is studied as the methodology of creativities in this thesis. It is categorized into the ‘structure’ metaphors, the ‘textural’ metaphors and the ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphors, which in turn appeal to intellectual, poetic and visual sensitivities. Involved in design ‘isolated pictorial’ metaphors are commonly used, since they refer to visual communication and contain both analogical and emotional factors. But still ‘structure’ metaphors and ‘textural’ metaphors are widely used as well.

At the end, I practised to bring the romantic property in furnitures with metaphors. I chose the day bed as my object, because it exists through different cultures, and its function — to ‘lean on’ — is a vague concept between ‘lay in’ and ‘sit on’, and provide it a big potential of customisable usage. The shape and the mortise / tenon structure of Chinese traditional furniture are used as a metaphor, which plays the definition between ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘rational’ and ‘romantic’, ‘mechanical’ and ‘organic’ etc.


Notes 1. Japan, Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. 2011. p. 76. 2. Capra, F. The Tao of Physics. Fontana/Collins, 1975.

3. Chris Abel, Architect and Identity. Architectural Press, 2000. p. 119.

4. Judith Miller. Möbel, die große Enzyklopädie. Dorling Kingdersley. 2006. p. 240 5. Frankel. Encyclopedia of Country Furniture. Friedman Fairfax,U.S. 1993. p. 164 6. 96

7. Hara Kenya. Design of Design. 2003 8.

9. Chris Abel, 2000. p. 120.

10. Chris Abel, 2000. p. 120.


12. 13. 14. Chris Abel, 2000. p. 121.

15. Ma Weidu, Ma Weidu talks about furniture. Zhonghua Book Company. 2008. p. 45. 16. 17. The world of Ornament, David Batterham. Tasche. 2009 18. Chris Abel, 2000. p. 121.

19. Lin Yuping, Ingenuity follows Nature. Prime Time. The China Post. 14th October 2011. 20.

21. Chris Abel, 2000. p. 137. 22. Abel, 2000. p. 97 23. Abel, 2000. p. 97 24. Abel, 2000. p. 98

25. Abel, 2000. p. 102

26. Hajo Eickhoff Etc. Sitzen. Anabas-Berlag G체nter K채mpf GmbH & Co. KG. 1997. p. 12. 27. Eickhoff. 1997. p. 12. 28. Eickhoff. 1997. p. 12.

29. Miller, Judith. Furniture. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London. 2005. p. 191 30. 31. Morrison, Jasper. Everything but the Walls, 2002 32. Le Corbusier. The Modulor. 1948.

33. Ulrich Krohs. Eine Theorie biologischer Theorien: Status und Gehalt von Funktionsaussagen und informationstheoretischen Modellen Berlin, 2004

34. Charlotte & Peter Fiell. Design des 20 Jahrhunderts. Taschen GmbH. 2011. pp 698. 35. Bill Bryson. At Home: a short history of private life. 2010. p. 201 36.Bryson. 2010. p. 232


Selbstständigkeitserklärung Versicherung: Hiermit versichere ich, dass ich die Arbeit selbstständig angefertigt habe und keine anderen als die angegebenen Quellen und Hilfsmittel genutzt habe. Zitate habe ich als solche kenntlich gemacht.

Köln, 25 06 2013

Poetry—romantic furniture based on hybrid culture  
Poetry—romantic furniture based on hybrid culture