In October 2013 I visited an exhibition 
dedicated to the architect Richard Rogers 
at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. 
Over the years I have often wondered at how 
“structure” is seen differently  by architects 
and by furniture makers. In furniture usually 
the elements that give a piece its rigidity are the joints. In architecture, it seems to me that often what holds a building together is simply the mass of the components – the weight of the building gives it its strength. (For any architects out there – yes, I know this is a gross
                                                     oversimplification…) The simplest example I can think of is dry
                                                     stone walling: yes the rocks need to “fit” together, but it’s a 
                                                    matter of balance rather than adhesion – in the end, gravity is
                                                    what holds it up (pun intended).

                                                    Richard Rogers was one of the group of architects that designed     
                                                    the Pompidou Centre in Paris in the ‘70s 
                                                    and there were several models and pictures 
                                                    of this building in the exhibition. 
                                                    Architecturally their design was innovative
                                                     in that the functional structural elements 
                                                    are on display on the outside of the
                                                     building, instead of hidden inside. 

This set me thinking about trying something similar with a piece of furniture: 
turning the structure inside out.
The other thing I discovered looking at the models was the way the structure was supported – a system of cantilevers: the weight of the structure supported by pillars (in compression) and struts (in tension) on the outside of the building. Again – could I do something similar with a piece of furniture?
After much thinking, sketching and evaluating options, I arrived at the design of the“Bookstack”. The shelves converge towards a supporting central “column”, and are angled so that the weight of the books tends towards the centre. The struts between the shelves act as pivots of cantilevers.

As I was describing the design to my wife, the idea developed further – how about hiding the vertical pieces altogether, so that the shelves filled with books seem to somehow float unsupported? I initially thought about making them out of glass or acrylic  but I wasn’t quite sure of how well these materials would function structurally – they needed to be strong both in compression and tension. And then it finally struck me: use wooden components but disguise them as books! As Father Brown mused in one of Chesterton’s stories: “Where does a wise man hide a leaf? In the forest.”

I wasn’t sure about using real books – both in terms of copyright and in terms of the danger of choosing books that potential clients would not like – so I just made them up! I chose a selection of quotes from various authors, in different fields (humour, science, psychology etc.) and I asked my friend Vanessa Adams (a talented graphic designer) to turn them into book covers which she did beautifully!

 English Sycamore
145cm x 105cm x 25cm
Armando Magnino  
Fine Furniture, Beautifully Made  .
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