Over the past four seasons, the design duo, Oeuffice have been steadily releasing their line of thoughtfully considered and intricately crafted pieces. I was fortunate to see their debut products Totems for Living at the Carwan Gallery in Zona Ventura — Lambrate in 2011, and was pleasantly surprised by their dominating presence yet subtle attention to detail. The chance to experience these objects for the first time, juxtaposed against each other alongside a carefully curated gallery setting left a lasting impression on me, so much so that every year I am excited in anticipation for their next presentation.
In their most current endeavor, the design office, as they prefer to be called, has continued to impress and has released their strongest work to date. Although smaller in scale, the Kapital series of tables and stools stand just as tall in their execution of concept, form and materiality. Beautifully sculpted of monumental stone such as Italian marble, they are timeless in both aesthetics and function. I had the chance to catch up with the pair to discuss their beginnings, their creative process and their bright future.
Interview by Koko Jubilo
Images courtesy of Oeuffice
Koko Jubilo: I’m obviously a fan of your work, but for those that have yet to be exposed please give us some background on who you are and how you established your studio.
Oeuffice : We are Jakub Zak and Nicolas Bellavance Lecompte, and we are the founders of OEUFFICE, a collaborative research laboratory with a focus on developing innovative objects in limited edition.
We both grew up in Canada, Jakub on the Westcoast between Victoria and Vancouver, Nicolas in Quebec between Gaspesie and Montreal. Jakub studied Industrial Design at Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, as well as KHB Weissensee in Berlin; Nicolas studied architecture at Université de Montreal, then at IUAV in Venice as well as KHB Weissensee in Berlin.
After completing his studies Jakub moved to Milan, working first for the offices of Claudio and Mario Bellini, before moving to Studio Patricia Urquiola where he managed projects as a senior designer.
Nicolas first worked at Thomas Demand studio in Berlin and co-founded Samare studio in Montreal before moving to Milan to start various projects between Italy and the Middle East. We both met during the 2010 Milan furniture fair and discovered our interests and vision overlapped and soon afterwards decided to found a new design partnership.
Kapital-Italian Marble and Stone Edition. Top: Dorik. Bottom: Tuskan
The name Oeuffice is quite interesting, is there meaning behind it?
We didn’t want to be called a studio, which seems to be the default among designers today, and we really preferred the title “office” so we Italianized the word by writing it as it would be expressed phonetically in northern Italy. Ironically it sounds similar to the word oeuf, which in French translates to egg.
Having worked for different companies in the past, how has the experience of working with each other been different from working on your own and is there anything that stands out in terms of creative process in your current state of collaboration?
Our collaboration has helped us to really consider the process and to set strong design objectives. We really challenge each other and compliment each other at the same time. We try to divide certain responsibilities based on our strengths and experiences, and we bring very unique backgrounds and skills sets that have helped to balance all the demands of running a successful creative practice. Also, working conceptually as a team has helped us to challenge the integrity of our project research and development, we work rigorously to refine the concepts we undertake and to execute them with the best techniques and the finest craftsmen. Sometimes working together has brought about new and unexpected avenues that on our own would have been hard to discover or impossible to undertake.
Centerpieces-Milanes Collection 2013
Your work is said to reflect visions of contemporary utopia, please expand on this ideal and why you have decided to make this your primary focus for your collection.
Our work is inspired by architecture, specifically architecture dealing with visionary or utopian themes, where the paradigm is celebrated. It is a part of our conceptual approach, a way to live inspired by an ideal architecture closely linked to its surroundings, where everything is well proportioned and in balance. With that in mind, often our ideas begin with the spacial impact of a particular object as opposed to the design of the object in itself. In other cases, like a deconstructed masterpiece, we sample a particular architectural archetype and transform it into a new un-recognizing object. Generally we admire the variety and beauty that is hidden in all of architectures most influential periods.
What are your reasons for choosing a more limited edition distribution model for your work?
Limited edition permits us to experiment with new materials and unconventional forms and techniques. It also provides us with more opportunities for developing unique and handcrafted objects. By applying this model we are free to work closely with craftsmen on bespoke commissions as opposed to developing products for mass production, in a way this approach gives us the freedom to work in a more artistic manner.
I’ve noticed that your Kapital series has recently been selected for the L’Arco Baleno shop, with other past exhibitions with such companies as Philips de Pury etc… what other avenues of representation do you foresee yourself collaborating with in the near future?
Yes, we are currently represented by galleries in Milan, London and New York, as well as online with L’Arco Baleno. Our goal for the future is to increase our representation globally, and to focus more on special commissions and bespoke interiors.
Totems for Living-Monolithic Displays. Top: Oeffice Laveer Totem. Bottom: Oeuffice Centina Totem
How has the consideration of scale influenced the evolution of your work?
That’s a very good observation, in fact all our work challenges preconceived expectations of architectural form and volume. Even the titles given to our works are deceptive to their true scale. For instance our Ziggurats are often mistaken for much larger pieces, when in fact they are rather conventionally sized boxes that stack together to create a sort of ziggurat tower. Similarly, our centrepiece collection is based on a deconstruction of Milanese courtyard gates and window grills, that are magnified and abstracted to the point that they become new objects with a new function.
The ‘Assembled Folly’ project for Depot Basel in 2012 is quite different from your other work, what was the inspiration for your installation and how did you come to participate?
We were invited by Depot Basel to construct this permanent outdoor installation in only 48h. They had asked us to come up with a concept for an outdoor construction that would act as a beacon to passing visitors. As with all our work it is based on our research into architectural archetypes. We fell in love with the idea of creating a sort of contemporary Architectural Folly that could have the same impressive stature, yet be constructed in less than 2 days. At the time we were doing a great deal of research into space frames and discovered that even before Buckminster Fuller’s time, engineers experimenting with flight had already created the most incredible lightweight 3d frame constructions. People like Alexander Graham Bell were creating highly complex geometric structures with the aim of flying them. Much like his early kites, the overall form plays with an unexpected notion of scale, volume and repetition, and the triangular voids incorporate a convoluted rope weave that acts like an outer fabric or web.
The development of Assembled Folly by Oeuffice. Clockwise: Early design of a Tetrahedron kite cell, by Alexander Graham Bell, Folly reference, Folly sketch, Assembled Folly at Depot Basel
Having worked in Italy for quite some time, Milanese culture and the traditional craft of Northern Italy seem to be prevalent in your practice. Please describe this influence and how exposure to other cultures while studying/working abroad has shaped your evolving design sensibility.
Italy has been particularly special for its rich offering of architectural history, strong design culture, long artisan tradition, continuous industrial innovation, and overall cultural attention to detail. This has certainly helped to shape our creative impressions and our approach to our work. The other very influential factor is our privilege of traveling regularly, whether for work or for pleasure, to visit various countries and to participate in their culture. This continuous exposure certainly helps in stimulating new ideas and in challenging our perceptions or expectations.
Ziggurat Containers-Tower Series
Do you have any other eccentric passions that you participate in or any other sources of influence that have informed your past work and/or may potentially impact your future endeavors?
Jakub: I love to take photos and they are a huge inspiration to the process of my work. I am also a collector of form, whether it’s a recognizable object or piece taken from nature, or a photo of an abstracted element, I am obsessed with the evolution of the material world in every sense of the word matter.
Nicolas: I have this quest since years of searching for rare crafts across Middle East and North Africa, meeting makers, understanding their culture and way they create objects. Collecting those special objects and involving the artisans sometimes in projects makes me realize how processes are fundamental in the creative field and how they bring new forms of inspiration for contemporary objects.