All Projects

Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment

The etymology of the word furniture is related to the French fournir, to furnish, to provide. But it also means to equip, which conveys activity, intensity, or a certain active approach. For us, the placement and shape of furniture is an active proposition, insofar as the furniture becomes a participant of the space.

For us, creating furniture comes with a series of questions: how do people inhabit the spaces we create? How do surfaces allow participants to feel engaged in the spaces we make? How can furniture assist architecture in the framing of connection and stimulating offhand encounters that we see as central to architecture’s mission?

Furniture is an opportunity: it is a way of addressing scale within a space. Furniture is also a way of introducing intimacy into a space. When we think about making architecture, we think about the special relationship between people and space. We think of furniture in a broad definition, to include carpets, curtains, bulletins, and all elements that inhabit a space.

Furniture gives the building an agency by which the inhabitants can find their place in that building. If someone wants to be solitary, we want to provide the kind of settings that honors the need for solitude. On the other hand, we are also social beings. The rearrangement of furniture allows for settings to become vehicles by which sociability can occur more frequently and more effortlessly.

As we design furniture and parts of cities, infrastructure, and landscapes, the common thread all the way through our work is that design has new agencies and opportunities at every scale, and we don’t view them as separate from each other. They really are more part of a continuum of attention to identity and purpose and form, as well as material and craft. And arguably, our commitment to craft in architecture and our commitment to craft in furniture are one and the same.


There are two approaches equally valid approaches to color: one where color is assertive and becomes a kind of counterpoint to its environment—it’s the gregarious individual in the space. In this approach, color is much more foregrounded, and it may be used as a counterpoint to a more neutral envelope. The other approach might, like at the Greentree project, recall a landscape that exists in close proximity—in this case, many different shades of green that recall the surrounding environment. Here, color allows for the landscape to be brought into the interior.

We have been intuitively drawn to color with impact, color that connects with the landscape. The oranges, reds, ambers seem to be emitting light, a common, intuitive disposition. Like flowers in a garden, you need the assertive registration as a way of providing a sensual contrast.


The topic of materials touches on a project we are very excited about: in creating the space for the conservatory at Longwood Gardens, trees that have been removed from the site are being milled and kiln-dried. We are designing furniture from this wood to then reinhabit the conservatory spaces.

A similar example: the few Gingko trees that were removed to make space for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center were used to make part of the acoustic wall inside the Visitor Center’s Event Space. The wood also became part of the panels used for mobile furniture and partitioning. Here, the marriage between architecture and furnishings was very much an intention. The relationship between furniture and the larger setting has always been important to us.

We gravitate towards a use of materials that you wouldn’t think as important to furniture, like resin, or fabrics more commonly used in Scuba Diving and Nasa Tech. But we are most of all interested in introducing a kind of texture and tactility that is often lost in our contemporary environments. The sense of touch, even the sense of smell that comes with different kinds of wood—these are sensory details that heighten our experience. In our highly digitized world, the materiality and sensation of smell or encountering furniture with our bodies is a way of connecting with ourselves and others.

We are also aware of the material resonance of our thinking about the furnishings. At the University of Pennsylvania’s Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, the translucency of the amber glass protects the research inside. We wanted to bring that luminosity of amber into relation with the people outside of those spaces. This polished amber resin is completely transparent on the side, and yet on its surface there is a very soft etching with a soft sand to show how one material can take on many lives.

Another example would be the furniture at Smith College Student Center. Smith College actually contains a highly recognized arboretum. We took photos of some of the more spectacular botanical elements at Smith, and had those photos embedded within a series of tables. These were printed on transparent plastic and then embedded halfway into a 1-inch pour of resin. We also had the Latin, the indigenous, and common names of the plants inscribed in the image. The intention is not a literal depiction of the botanical element, but an artistic reinterpretation that helps further define the sense of place. We also wanted to play with luminosity: the tabletops are intentionally translucent. Located along the pathway under the skylight, the tabletops become conduits that help draw natural light through the building.


What is the relationship between a silhouette and the designed space? We attempt to create a continuity of our environments, with landscapes, with architecture, right into the craft and detail of furnishings. When designed in conjunction with a space, furniture can profoundly elevate the design of that space. 

We love the idea that furniture can oscillate between being built into and being embedded within the stable architectural elements. But we also believe that furniture can become a protagonist that exists independent of the surfaces of architecture. Some of the chairs we designed have an extraordinarily assertive silhouette, because we want their presence to be active. Whereas other pieces are a little more passive, like, for instance, an ottoman.


The ground plane is where inside and outside meet on the terrain of a project.  As we think about elements that make a place feel welcoming, the design of carpets and area rugs has been an important recurring element on many of our projects. Because those, too, are opportunities to create new textures, layers, new narratives and a sense of invitation and delight for barefooted experience.

Carpets and rugs go back to the idea that furniture is a scaler. The carpet is not just an object, it transforms the shape and the perception of a room, and it provides a level of tactility that becomes quite critical as a counterpoint to other surfaces. There will always be that sense of pieces of furniture as an object, but when it is arranged or put into its context or engagement, it becomes an active participant in the larger conversation.


Mies van der Rohe said it was harder to design a chair than a building. What he meant by that, we believe, is that our bodies are very unforgiving. The relationship to your body and to specific materials—like in the case of metal, which works well in tension—must be calibrated to the most precise millimeter, because a chair will either collapse, or be comfortable or uncomfortable. And there is very little room for tolerance! On the other hand, there’s a high opportunity for elegance and comfort. And that’s what makes the design of a chair both so challenging but also such an extraordinary opportunity.

We like to work with models, both digital and analog, intuitively bending and folding paper. In the case of the Smith college lounge chair, the design came out of the process, by folding and unfolding paper. The result was almost like origami, a very simple cut-out that had a sense of movement in it and a simplicity of form. The design was the translation of the intuitive desire for thinness and movement and simplicity, combined with the strength through the prototype of the project. Hence, you see the double C-shape.


Building on the idea of the silhouette is also the idea that furniture first and foremost must respond to your body. And that is why we are interested in furniture being a participant of a space. Often you can approach architecture through the lens of furniture: furniture is the most immediate actor. While one might argue that a door-pull is a piece of furniture in that it is furniture’s relationship to the human body that engages us. How you sit in a chair, and whether that chair is comfortable or not, whether it has a silhouette, is a function of your body. In that way, furniture is the most immediate and the most anthropomorphic response that architecture can give to the human presence.

Often, we are compelled to design furniture for a space because we are interested in something that offers scale, tactility, color, and a sense of welcome. Something that adds life to a building even when it is absent of people. And furniture in many ways serves as a protagonist or a proto-inhabitant. It is the proxy for people.


Furniture can offer a space personality. For instance: in designing a theatre auditorium, like the one at Marshall Family Performing Arts Center, we were interested in not having just one monolithic seating color. We might arrange a collection of colors that, together, populate the space. Even in the absence of a full audience, someone looking out from the stage at the audience might see a diversity of the chroma and experience an intuitively welcoming and populated space.

The lowest level of the Diana Center has a black box theatre. During a recent visit, we noticed a collection of furniture reside in a gallery just outside that theatre. The arrangement of the furniture had been composed and recomposed by all kinds of inhabitants, and for the purpose of our visit, we recast it for a setting that would suggest a collection of different groups might meet. The capacity of configuring and reconfiguring is incredibly compelling.

Furniture and dance have a lot in common. Sometimes there is a soloist, or there is a collection of dancers that are in conversation with each other as a counterpoint to the soloist. The round disks that form tabletops in our studio, and the variably-scaled ottomans, are in concert with the Novartis wingback chair. The chairs really are soloists side-by-side, a duet.


How many can reside in a space has everything to do with their scale and their collective presence.

Gingko tree material process