Design Days Dubai

The Construction Series by Studio Swine


26 March 2013

Rubble, rusted rebars, marble and cement sourced from Dubai building sites form the backbone of a new furniture set from Studio Swine, built over a period of five days during the Design Days Dubai festival in the United Arab Emirates.

"The core of our work is taking something overlooked and undesirable, and transforming it through design," says Alexander Groves, who together with Azusa Murakami makes up Studio Swine. "We’re interested in a place's vernacular design: its design without designers. The Construction Series is immersed in the industrial districts of Dubai."

The collection - three stools, a table and a camel leather chair - was cast, welded, de-rusted and painted in front of visitors to the Dubai fairgrounds. The series' aesthetic is purposefully rudimentary, assembled from grid structures built from rebar and white cement surfaces, set through with coloured marble aggregate. The project was developed in conjunction with Coletivo Amor de Madre, a São Paulo based design space.

"People at the show really interested about the stories behind the designs and the pieces we were making," says Groves. "They were interested in what we were doing and how we were doing it, because they wanted to try it themselves at home. We went to Dubai with ideas of rich Sheiks buying the pieces, but it was more people just wanting to try the ideas for themselves.

"Everyone associates Dubai with mad buildings, which it has, but it’s also trying to find solutions to issues surrounding sustainability, which is what this series was looking at."

One of the more pointed aspects of the collection is its treatment of rebars, thin metal bars used heavily in the Dubai construction industry. Rebar offcuts in the UAE are typically sent to India to be re-smelted into longer, more useful bars: an energy heavy process. Studio Swine's approach - quickly welding these offcuts into steel lattices on the city's streets - presents an alternative use for the material.

Most of the series' geometric grids reference modernist architecture, but others - notably the black steel lattice used in the camel leather chair - veer towards Arabic ornamentation.

"If you walk down the main street in Dubai, Sheik Zayed road, you see New York-style buildings," says Groves. "The UAE has got elements of a filter culture, so you recognise their take on the AT&T building or their version of the Empire State. But then they add a more traditional, Arabic ornamentation twist. When you have rebars they're industrial and natural to use in geometric grids, but they can be very ornamental as well."

The project continues Studio Swine's examination of salvaged material, a theme evidenced in its Designs of the Year nominated Sea Chair, a stool built from plastic recovered from the oceans.

Construction Series also shares a common character with Can City, a project that the studio has launched in Brazil to design products using scrap aluminium gathered from the streets of São Paulo.

"We’ve made a mobile aluminium foundry that went round São Paulo collecting cans," says Groves. "It runs on waste vegetable oil. They eat a lot of fried food over there, so there are just rivers of this oil that you can tap into."