Design has a unique way of bringing people together. Whether it is through locally produced food served at a large inviting dining table, or taking place in our city’s public spaces. Furniture plays a essential role by bringing groups together who otherwise would not connect. As designers, we can use food, furniture, and architecture to curb a crisis of social disconnection by designing objects that inherently encourage meaningful interaction. Designing with people in mind is essential for the success of any product or service and will add to the quality of life for the user. 

Every culture has rituals and traditions behind their food and how they prepare it. It is a constant reminder of our reliance on nature and each other. In his book, The Pleasure of Eating, the farmer/poet Wendell Berry says that “eating is an agricultural act.” He links the act of eating meals to the wider context of those who work the land, grow the food, prepare it, and eventually eat it. He is a part of the Slow Food movement, which began out of a desire to move back to the roots of an agrarian society. Families would buy or trade locally produced ingredients to make their food together, eat together, and leave time after the meal to develop more meaningful relationships with one another.

A well-designed system, however, can be used against our quality of life by exchanging a timely process for instant gratification, as exemplified by our fast food culture. The convenience of the drive-thru replaced many experiences such as gathering ingredients for a meal by walking through a public market, or preparing meals to be enjoyed in the home. The trade offs are striking. What one gains in time and money is lost in the quality and enjoyment of the experience. A solution to prevalent disconnection from our agriculture industry and society is to shorten the gap between producer and consumer. By tracing the product back from the store, to the distribution centre, from the farm or forest, one can truly appreciate the end product, not just for the food itself but the work that goes into bring food to the table. 

Nearly all social interaction happens in and around furniture. Whether its a tree stump placed around a campfire or a solid walnut boardroom table- design plays an important role in everyday life. It can be seen in a much loved alcove in a park, a welcoming bench at a bus stop, or a large dining table to host friends and family. Design can serve to remedy our disconnected society by bringing those who produce the products closer to those using them. Along with community comes collaboration, and with collaboration, ideas and solutions one may never develop on their own. Design can promote social interaction and improve quality of life as we begin to value being together more and more.


Tables shown were made by Azuza for Kit and Ace at their Calgary location.

Photo credit: Kit and Ace

A Part of Life

Architecture is to furniture what a gold ring is to a diamond— the opportunity for a perfect setting. Since all furniture lives within the context of architecture, it is vital to consider the space it will occupy. Here's where the opportunity comes in play. Architecture is the grand piano in a concerto and furniture is the diverse and colourful orchestra. The maestro who brings these two together is a Milanese architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni, who is best known for his subtlety in design solutions, saying in an interview with Monocle’s Italian correspondent Ivan Carvalho, “My job is to provoke emotions, be it through my entranceways, my stairs, even the furniture — they are all solutions.” 

Seeing a problem in the industry’s inability to produce furniture to his specifications, he started his furniture company Azucena with two other architects, together designing over 100 objects to compliment the uniqueness of his buildings. Since every space has distinctive qualities making up its characteristics, anything from the direction of the sunlight to the people occupying them make the space unique, so to does the furniture require adequate customization.

“It was not about launching a brand. At times we had problems not having the right interior furnishings so I’d have to invent something new.” Says Cassia. Carvalho goes on to describe what sets the company apart, “unlike the competition, Azucena doesn’t have its own factory, relying instead on a network of artisans extending from the nearby furniture-manufacturing district of Brianza all the way to Veneto. Its funnel-shaped Imbuto lamp, for example, requires half a dozen artisans to make its stem, base and lampshade, then handpaint and varnish it before an electrician puts it together.” Marta Sala, Caccia’s niece who now runs Azucena, says, “(the process is) time consuming but the quality is there, we’ve tried laser cutting to make certain parts but we’ve found the product loses its identity. It’s an artisanal process.”

I’ve found the handmade characteristic of a piece of furniture not only ensures the quality of the piece but also the feeling it evokes in the one enjoying it. Metaphysically speaking, we shape the world around us to emanate our views and values. We are drawn to pieces of art that reflect and affirm our beliefs and aesthetic tastes. Furniture is a personal expression within our home and workspace. This is an opportunity to solve problems and to express ourselves in unique and beautiful ways, both in the architecture of the building and the furniture we choose to place within it.


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May 2013, Issue 63, volume 7p.117-122. Writer: Ivan Carvalho Photographer: Gaia Cambiaggi