Pumping up the volumes
From furnishings with heft to beautifully blocky buildings, oversized forms and inflated geometry are driving a major movement
The directive to “go big or go home” is usually followed by an impetuous leap of faith, an act involving risk and even failure. But the design world’s budding embrace of monumentalism is nothing if not thoughtful, reflecting a desire to re-explore pure volumes (cylinders, cubes, pyramids) to maximum effect and in ways that meet the needs of today. Take the 22 Dwellings Housing Block designed in Barcelona not long ago by MAIO Architects, a homegrown firm. The ground floor is made up of massive, multi-hued forms whose role is more than ceremonial. Each outsized slab, cylinder and circle has a function – sheltering a doorway, framing a staircase – that its voluminousness addresses both boldly and effectively. With 22 Dwellings, a project that combines artistry and domesticity with rare skill, the architects seem to be telling the world: “Go big and go home.” It’s a message that’s resonating. Among this year’s new furniture releases, Agapecasa’s Loico shelving (anchored by sturdy marble columns) and Egg Collective’s Isla coffee table (as chunky as it is charming) are chips off the new blockiness. GRT Architects’ Flutes & Reeds tile collection for Hungary’s Kaza Concrete, meanwhile, plays with trompe l’oeil effects by inflating and repeating lozenge motifs to create wild cross-sectional mash-ups. The increasing experimentation with overgrown forms speaks, well, volumes about where design is headed: The attention to shape and scale goes hand in hand with a return to honest material palettes – stone, concrete, steel – and with a refreshing aesthetic idealism. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Instagram account of Cape Town digital artist Alexis Christodoulou, who creates imaginary spaces composed of neoclassical shapes in pastel hues. The tableaux feel timeless and dreamy yet utterly convincing, like de Chirico paintings for our modern moment. When a trend goes meta in this way, it has captured the zeitgeist as well as hearts and minds. This one will only grow larger.
ABOVE LEFT AND RIGHT: Egg Collective’s Nutty magazine rack and Isla coffee table are part of the New York studio’s latest furniture explorations.
LEFT: Designed by Álvaro Siza, the Capela do Monte chapel in Portugal’s Algarve region is a clean-lined ode to monumentalism.