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Posts Tagged ‘furniture

“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort”*…

 

From campground to crab shack to suburban backyard, the picnic table is so ubiquitous that it is nearly invisible as a designed object. Yet this ingenious form — a structurally bolted frame that unites bench seats and table into a sturdy package — has remained largely unchanged since the 1930s. Having transcended the picnic, it is now the ideal setting for any outdoor event that compels us to face one another squarely across a shared surface…

These qualities of familiarity and abundance have made the picnic table an American icon. On the website of The Home Depot, buyers can choose from among 102 models, priced between $109 and $2,260. That seems an impossible variety, and we should be grateful that we typically don’t make the purchasing decisions. For most of the past hundred years, we have occupied picnic tables chosen by others, by the operators of car washes and rest stops and fairgrounds, and it is never uncomfortable…

Dig in at: “An Illustrated History of the Picnic Table.”

* W. Somerset Maugham

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As we parse the pastoral prandium, we might spare a utilitarian thought for Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer died on this date in 1832.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of students including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

 see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

Written by LW

June 6, 2018 at 1:01 am

“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence”*…

 

When George Jakob Hunzinger patented his first piece of furniture in December of 1860, the United States was on the brink of a devastating Civil War. Amid the growing pressures of industrialization, the country was split between those in favor of an old-fashioned business model—dependent on slavery—and those betting on a more diversified, innovative economy. At the time, the American way of life as we know it today was hardly recognizable: Gas-powered automobiles hadn’t made their debut; electric lighting was decades away; skyscrapers did not yet exist. Yet from Hunzinger’s vantage point as a successful immigrant in New York City, possibly the most forward-thinking place on Earth, he imagined a future where humans lived among machines, and even the most humble pieces of furniture would be mechanically enhanced.

Beginning with his first patent for an extendable table whose leaves were hidden underneath when not in use, Hunzinger knew the seamless integration of technology and furniture could be a selling point. Though the Industrial Revolution had already transformed American production, the final decades of the 19th century would thrust the country into modernity, with Hunzinger’s inventions helping to pave the way…

More at: “Furniture of the Future: Victorian New York’s Most Visionary Designer Loved His Machines.

* “In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile ”
― Isaac Asimov, Robot Visions

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As we settle in, we might think back to one of the driving forces that created the America in which many of us live: on this date in 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, landmark legislation that funded a 40,000-mile system of interstate roads that ultimately reached every American city with a population of more than 100,000. Today, almost 90% of the interstate system crosses rural areas, putting most citizens and businesses within driving distance of one another. Although Eisenhower’s rationale was martial (creating a road system on which convoys could travel more easily), the rewards were largely civilian. From the growth of trucking to the rise of suburbs, the interstate highway system re-shaped American landscapes and lives.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Do not imagine that mathematics is hard and crabbed, and repulsive to common sense. It is merely the etherealization of common sense”*…

 

Indeed, mathematics can be pretty amazing.  Consider, for example, that a pizza (which is essentially a very short cylinder) that has radius “z” and height “a” has volume Pi × z × z × a.

More marvelous math here.

* William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin

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As we do the sums, we might send relaxing birthday greetings to  Edwin J. Shoemaker; he was born on this date in 1907.  In 1928, he and his cousin Edward M. Knabusch prototyped a porch chair out of some wooden slats taken from orange crates; it would automatically recline as a sitter leaned back.  Since it was a seasonal item, his sales improved when he added plush upholstery for year-round indoor use.  Still, his chairs were for the most part locally/regionally sold.  So he designed a manufacturing facility which utilized the mass-production methods of Detroit’s automotive industry– and in November of 1941 went national with the La-Z-Boy recliner.

Edwin (left) and Edward with their original creation

source

 

Written by LW

June 2, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way… But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself”*…

 

“We’ve taken a complete rethink of how wood is used as a material,” said designer Gavin Munro. His production method upends traditional furniture manufacturing processes that involve cutting down trees, trucking logs, sawing the wood, then gluing back them together, generating a lot of industrial and ecological waste in the process.

Over the last four years, Munro and his team at Full Grown have been nurturing hundreds of willow trees, patiently waiting for the right harvest time. Guided by Munro’s studies in tree shaping and botanical craftsmanship, the trained furniture designer is using grafting techniques to coax the tree branches to form chairs, tables and lamp, and frames…

More at “This designer doesn’t make chairs. He grows them—from trees.”

* William Blake

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As we agree that there is nothing like a tree, we might recall that it was on this date in 1898 that the first school of professional forestry in the U.S., the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell, was created by an act of the New York State Legislature.  Dr. Bernhard Fernow, then chief of the USDA’s Division of Forestry, was invited to head the new College, and set about creating a 30,000 acre demonstration forest in the Adirondacks.  In part to test his theories of forest management and in part to help pay for the program, Fernow and Cornell entered into a contract with the Brooklyn Cooperage Company to deliver them wood…  and set about clear-cutting large swaths of the forest.  As a result of the public outcry that followed, the school was defunded and closed in 1903.  (It “reopened” under new management in 1911 at Syracuse University, where it has been operating since.)

Dr, Fernow

 source

 

Written by LW

April 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

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