Collab, a group that supports modern design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has honored three young contemporary designers, Tokyo’s Oki Sato, London’s Faye Toogood, and Rio de Janeiro’s Zanini de Zanine, with the group’s 2016 Design Excellence: New Generation award. A new exhibition highlights the commonalities between the designers’ experimental techniques and how their cultural backgrounds influence their designs for modern chairs, tables, and lamps. The contemporary furnishings by the designers explore the use of materials such as impregnated paper, wood, metals, and fiberglass.
Sato founded his design studio, Nendo, in 2002, and the firm name translates to the word “clay” and suggests his work is more playful in nature due to the easily adaptive qualities of the substance. His contributions to the exhibition, such as the Cabbage, Manga, and Fadeout chairs, reflect Japanese pop culture and emphasize small excitements in traditional forms.
Toogood’s works focus on experimentation, but all her pieces are made by hand by small-scale fabricators or traditional artisans. She cites England’s history as an inspiration for her work, which includes the Spade and Roly Poly chairs and Element–Cage table. When she experiments with new materials and processes, she groups her objects in “Assemblages” to visualize them in three-dimensional spaces and to communicate a story to her audience.
The third designer in the exhibition, de Zanine, started his workshop in 2004 and went on to open his studio, Studio Zanini, in 2011. With a respect for mid-century Brazilian design, he makes expressive pieces, such as the Serfa and Espasso chairs, with traditional carpentry methods, but when he began to use other industrialized materials such as plastic, methacrylate, and metals, he stayed true to his craftsman-like technique.
“Design Currents: Oki Sato, Faye Toogood, Zanini de Zanine” runs through March 12, 2017.