Positive Propaganda
by Sandra Hofmeister | May 8, 2009
All photos © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark

For some time now, Finnish manufacturers Artek have been collaborating with Japanese architect Shigeru Ban: No one will have forgotten the pavilion at Salone 2007 - a room sized 200 sq. m. made of a recyclable wood plastic composite, in which the company presented its corporate philosophy of "Art and Technology", the two terms that went to make up the company's name when it was founded back in 1935. Artek is this year opened a new chapter in the collaboration with Shigeru Ban at the trade-fair stand at the Salone: the 10-Unit System - a minimalist system of L-shaped modules that can be combined to form tables, benches and chairs. And they are made of recycled material and themselves completely recyclable.

"One chair suffices" is the provocative motto the company used to present the ten L-profiles at the fair. "It is a way of questioning the validity of consumption or rather excessive consumerism," suggests Artek CEO Mirkku Kullberg. "We should be much more responsible as regards our habits as buyers. If we become aware of what we buy then we can develop more scope for appreciating the objects that surround us."

Shigeru Ban's design dates back to 1993. Back then, it was launched under the name of "L-Unit System" and was made of laminated wood. The Artek version is made using a new composite called UPM ProFi - a mixture of recycled wood and plastic. The modules can swiftly be slotted together to former larger benches or individual chairs. The material is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. To date the system is available in black or white, but any other color can be produced on request. The individual parts are simple to pack away in a box and store. And anyone sitting on one of the slotted-together chairs will be surprised that the radical structure underlying the furniture nevertheless results in something you can sit on. To this extent, Artek's positive propaganda has worked: The 10-Unit System really shows that a chair is completely sufficient. It may not offer a lounge sofa for long evenings (something we must evidently forgo during the financial crisis), but a compact chair with a slender backrest that snuggles with its slight curve up to your back.

Without doubt, the idea received top marks for sustainability at this year's Salone del Mobile! At about EUR 200 for 10 modules (and Artek sells through its newly-launched webshop) the system is also inexpensive and encourages you to buy more. Not only the Lego friends and DIY freaks among us will enjoy the design - so will responsible buyers who focus on sustainability, and fans of Japanese aesthetics will of course enthuse about the 10-Unit System.

All photos © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark