The selection of designers we are showcasing in our feature of Felix Burrichter's Swiss Institute show are an exceptionally talented bunch. The designers in this part of the series occupy a realm in which their work embodies a physical treat for the eyes, with pieces focused on shape and innovative material exploration. From Ifeanyi Oganwu’s millimeter-thin sheets of steel, to Katie Stout’s playful use of vibrant, treated fabrics, each designer crosses boundaries with their use of bold elemental composition and medium. Read below as we speak to each of them about their work, focus and inspirations.

Ifeanyi Oganwu

“Ifeanyi is originally Nigerian but he is based in London. In his work he really pushes steel to its utmost extremes. What we’ll be showing at the Swiss Institute is a shelf called BULGY Inverted. It is made of highly polished steel that’s been bent into a beautiful shape. It’s a huge piece of very thin steel which has only been possible to bend into that kind of shape due to the thickness and length of the material. It’s a very grand gesture, and it’s a beautiful piece that’s going to be in the kitchen.” — Felix Burrichter

How would you define the focus of your work?

My projects are research driven and focused on learning something new each time around. In order to achieve this, I work with multiple materials and typologies as well as with specialists from a broad range of industries.

Most of your work seems to be metal and carbon fiber curved to perfection in one way or another. Could you talk about your interest in these kinds of geometries?

My background in architecture and interest in the body’s relation to topology and technology drive the design language shared by the projects. I find that nonlinear geometries best negotiate the structural and ergonomic criteria set out by each project thus far. That said, I'm working on a series based purely on planar surface structures.

Can you tell us about the piece that will be on view at the Swiss Institute show?

At the Swiss Institute I’ll be showing “BULGY Inverted,” a mirror polished stainless steel shelf which I designed in 2014; the work is a sequel within a series I began in 2013. The originating concept was a simple expression of the transition between vertical and horizontal states where a curved surface swells to accommodate structure as seen in the wall mounted version. For the free-standing iteration, I took inspiration from modern architecture, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright's “Fallingwater House,” where architecture blends in with nature by paradoxically standing out. In reversing the originating concept, planar sheets of stainless steel create functional surfaces which are braced diagonally by the draped curve. The planar surfaces, only 3mm in thickness, are engineered to interlock in the manner of traditional wood joinery with slots and grooves holding up the assembly with the help of minimal spot welds. Both functional and sculptural, the resulting mirror polished assemblage fuses surface with structure and blurs the distinction between interior and exterior.

Jonathan Muecke

“Jonathan Muecke is based in Minneapolis and he shows with Volume Gallery in Chicago. Jonathan focuses a lot on material exploration. For his Coiled Stool that he’s showing at Swiss Institute he used ultra-light carbon fiber rope that forms the shape of the entire stool.” — Felix Burrichter

How would you define the focus of your work?

I work on the outward-external relational qualities of objects, and the inward-internal relational qualities of architecture.

Can you elaborate on your interest in minimalist shapes and material exploration?

For an equalized object, I try to meet in the middle. This often means that shape in the object is restrained and material in the object is pushed in some way.

Can you tell us about the piece that will be on view at the Swiss Institute show?

The “Coiled Stool” (CS) is made from a single carbon/aramid fiber tube coiled into a mold, and fixed under pressure. It is an outcome of an ongoing research on the potentials of composite tube structures - progressing with what began with Thonet in bent wood, followed shortly after by Le Corbusier and others in bent steel. The CS is a radical departure from these precedents because the material allows for the generation of structure and surface without the need of joints or a change in material.

Katie Stout

“Katie Stout is a Brooklyn-based designer who makes really fun pieces that are also a little bit absurd, child-like, but with a sinister twist. She makes soft chairs that you can’t sit on — they’re like stuffed animals. They stand up, but as soon as you touch them, they collapse. Some people may also remember her from Ellen’s Design Challenge, a reality TV show that she won. For the Swiss Institute show Katie made custom-placemats for the dining table, which are a big set of lips with a tongue coming out, which serves as a napkin.” — Felix Burrichter

How would you define the focus of your work?

My work focuses on transforming daily rituals through object making. The objects I make encourage people to experience the most common aspects of daily life differently by subtly subverting the domestic landscape, whether through a chair or placemats. Everything is sweeter, softer and lighter in order to counteract the melodrama that can be home. Things I make are “feel-good” but have a certain self awareness of what they are and what they aren’t.

Textiles and fabrics seem to be an important aspect of your work. Why?

Fabrics and textiles are important to me because they are the ultimate domestic good. People used to pack dowry’s with fabric and use scraps until they disintegrated and now hospitals have throw away socks. Fabric is an essential material to our survival because we have devolved to be relatively bald and for the most part we seem to take it for granted. I like to give fabric its due credit. I also like that fabric has the potential to be stuffed. I love the act of stuffing because you get to inflate life into something just by turning it from 2D to 3D. It’s so rudimentary and satisfying.

Can you tell us about the piece that will be on view at the Swiss Institute show?

For the Swiss Institute show, I have made lip placemats with a detachable tongue napkin that can lick you clean. The placemats were made at a mill in Rhode Island that specifically makes braided rugs. I like working with braided rugs because it speaks directly to the United State’s Colonial history, and is representative of how modern the country’s traditional practices have become while being relatively non-modern in the context of technology today despite looking like they were pulled off of someone’s tumblr. The placemats have been treated with Nano-tex to make it antimicrobial and both stain and spill resistant while the tongue napkin was just treated with the antimicrobial wash.

Robert Stadler

“Robert Stadler is an Austrian designer, but based in Paris. He has a beautiful piece in the show, the Cut_Paste console. It’s meant as a sideboard but we use it as a vanity. It’s made from super thin marble slabs that are glued onto honeycomb aluminum panels. It almost functions like a clip-on nail made out of very thin marble. The piece looks very light, but it’s actually really heavy.” — Felix Burrichter

How would you define the focus of your work?

I intervene in very different fields, and not all of them are typically a designer’s field of action. To give an example, I recently teamed up with a musician co-writing and performing a scenic piece about the life of a sofa for the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Or a few years ago, I presented an installation called “Wild at Home” in a Paris gallery, Triple V. It was about shaking up the classical idea of how a domestic interior should look like, and questioning our habits related to that. I function like the autofocus of a digital camera, always continuing to focus on different details of an image. However, rather than elaborating a body of work based on variations of a stylistic theme, I try to redefine established understandings and expectations of a project’s specific context.

A lot of your work has a subtle absurdity to it. Would you agree?

Yes indeed, we could call these productions "serious absurdities." I think there is a lot of poetry in actions which are executed with the utmost seriousness, but yet not pursuing any pragmatic goal such as profit, communication or others. Our world becomes increasingly rationalized and young designers often act as slick professionals without even having finished their education. So I believe that today we need this kind of absurdist approach more than ever.

Can you tell us about the piece that will be on view at the Swiss Institute show?

“Cut_paste#1” is the first piece of a series, reminiscent of shapes that might have been collected from an imaginary building site, sawn-off discarded waste, which have been recycled. A dreamt fiction of the disappearance of modern architecture.

The piece is composed of different marble panels, varying in shape and patterns as found on a building site. Some panels are a special marble-aluminium sandwich as typically used in architecture to save material and weight. These composites are produced by glueing an aluminium honeycomb panel on each side of a marble slab and then cutting the marble in half thus obtaining two marble/aluminium sandwiches. This technique achieves the marble’s thickness of only 5mm.

Ian Stell

“Ian Stell is a New York-based who shows with Matter Gallery. For the Swiss Institute show he custom-designed two nightstands which are going to flank the Ro/Lu-designed bed. They nightstands work on special polymetric hinges. They can transform from a square to a parallelogram, and so on. His pieces are very expensive so I am really happy he produced something especially for this show.” — Felix Burrichter

How would you define the focus of your work?

I’m interested in making objects with multiple points of focus — that can’t all be seen at once, or swallowed whole in a single bite. Maybe through some type of physical negotiation with a piece, or perhaps shifting one’s vantage point by a few inches, other facets can be unearthed that escape initial detection. Often different aspects of the same object can seem irreconcilable, but these disparate elements nonetheless physically coexist and inform each other.

A lot of your work is on the threshold between art and design, between functional and non-functional?

My practice doesn’t really sit entirely in either camp. I’m engaged with languages of functional form and with the problem solving methods of design disciplines. My work also almost always has utility of one sort or another, and invites physical engagement. But there isn’t necessarily a set goal of a line of inquiry. The program remains open, more proposition than solution.

You also have a keen interest in special engineering tricks. What interests you about this kind of design?

Often it’s assumed that I have a background in architecture and/or engineering. I actually have spent more time studying painting than anything else. Several years ago I became interested in making objects that move and morph, and I’ve learned just as much as I’ve needed to know to realize these projects. I have a special interest in large groupings that shift in concert, assuming a form and shaping a narrative through multiple voices. I’m drawn to complex, dynamic form — like dense choral arrangements, or complex weave structures.

Can you tell us about the pieces that you created for the Swiss Institute show?

Although the two tables, called Sidewinder(s) are not large, they are among the most complex pieces in the Pantograph series. Hundreds of components are initially extruded and assembled, edited and animated in virtual space. Once the aggregation meets the structural and mechanical criteria, the components are realized through a combination of digital fabrication and traditional woodworking techniques. The final process of assembly combines aspects of beading, weaving, and bridge building in miniature.