Showroom: Exploring the Potential of Bamboo

Taiwanese designer Feng Cheng-Tsung tests the limits of bamboo in his new chair. Image courtesy Feng Cheng-Tsung.

It doesn’t seem possible—with its sinuous strips of lashed and looped bamboo—that the chaise is for sitting let alone lounging. It seems more a piece of sculpture. In actuality, it’s both. It’s Flow, a new chaise conjured up by Taiwainese designer Feng Cheng-Tsung and fabricated by Chen Kao-Min as Cheng-Tsung’s response to contemporary designers’ use of bamboo. “I believe that the methods of making bamboo products are too limited,” he explains. “I wanted to release the restricted soul of bamboo.”

Beyond an interest in exploring the limits of the material, Cheng-Tsung took nature as his inspiration for the piece. “I wanted to present a flying cloud, blowing wind and running water in bamboo material,” he says. “The concept represents the action of nature as gradually weakens.” To that end, the back of the chaise, structured around massed balls composed of strips of bamboo, looks as if a cascade or gust is streaming more bamboo strips down the seat. As the strips reach the foot of the piece, they gradually taper into varying lengths.

For Cheng-Tsung, the piece’s construction turned into a fascinating exercise in methodology, balancing mass production and artisanal work. On the one hand, the ball components are relatively standardized and can be produced in something approaching a large quantity (even lending themselves as a structural element to say a stool or an armchair). On the other, the bamboo strips that flow from the piece are handcrafted, requiring a sure and steady hand to create their twists, turns and connections. In each case, though, it required many hours to find the proper configuration, both of the balls and of the freewheeling strips in order to deliver the sturdiest results.

In the end, says Cheng-Tsung,“I created an uncontrollable, perceptual and dynamic piece of furniture, with vivid and lifelike strength.”

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