Sam Hecht is one half of Industrial Facility, the studio behind the widely acclaimed Branca chair for Mattiazzi that takes its inspiration from the wooden branches of a tree. As regular readers will know, we are very pleased to have recently added the Mattiazzi range of products to the Herman Miller Asia Pacific collection. We caught up with Hecht who revealed his own design story and his experiences working with the Mattiazzi family to create Branca. Enjoy our interview below.
What led you to pursue a career in design?
My father sold electrical products like radios and toasters. Sometimes customers would return them and for pocket money he would ask me to have a go at repairing them. He knew nothing about how things worked – he was a salesman – and so I took everything apart. I started to see why things were made they way they are. Some products – particularly from Braun – were very cleverly put together. This interest led me to design – but design were the workings of it can influence the way it looks and feels.
My father still asks me to fix things!
How would you describe your design philosophy?
Simplicity that is inspirational – why have something complicated!
How did you come to work with Mattiazzi and what was it about the company that appealed to you in partnering with them?
Mattiazzi had invited me to design a wooden product for their second collection – the first being by Nitzan Cohen. I visited them with my colleague of the last 15 years – the Japanese designer Ippei Matsumoto. I warned them that I had not designed a lot of furniture, and certainly not a chair, and this was the reason they had asked me. I think they were interested in me because of my innocence and naivety. Perhaps what I would be suggesting would push them further than they had gone before.
We inspected their factory, smelt the air and tasted the food. I loved it.
Could you tell us a little of the design story behind your Branca chair for Mattiazzi?
Branca was my first chair design. I had waited some 20 years to gather the courage to imagine what a modern and relevant chair could be. To respect comfort and lightness, but also to respect Mattiazzi and the knowledge they had built up over many years. It was a real team effort, and much of my role was making a series of careful decisions both functional and sculptural. There were no pre-conditions, and so I made my own. I wanted a chair that was fluid because I knew Mattiazzi could do this. Like a tree that forms a branch through growth rather than construction. I wanted a chair that had armrests but could also stack, and to fit under a table. I wanted a chair to be comfortable to the body and to the eye. When it was finally completed, we all stood back and said it was quite something. Within a year it had been selected by 4 museum permanent collections, had been honoured as Design of the Year 2011 and won many awards. It meant that the conditions that were self-made were correct because they had become universal – and that is no easy accomplishment.
Mattiazzi have disproved the modern myth that mechanised manufacturing is not a craft. How did their approach to manufacturing differ from other companies you have worked with in the past?
The difference with Mattiazzi that people seem to forget is that they apply a craftsmen’s attitude to everything. Anyone can buy a machine for manufacturing, but Mattiazzi use the machine like a they would a hand tool. They craft the mechanization. With this commitment to quality, they have pioneered a new typology for craft.
Can you tell us a secret about the chair? Perhaps a less well-known fact?
A chair with not a single screw!! It seems not possible. Also, the arms are parallel with the floor, so you can rest it upside down on a table for cleaning.
There are a few colour options with the product - which is your preferred?
I like two – natural ash (which reminds me of pasta with only olive oil – simple and classic!) and Green which is based on a tree colour we found in a forest in the south of England.
What’s your favourite piece of furniture (if you can choose just one!)
Such a difficult question – it changes all the time…..I would say the Landi Chair by Swiss designer Hans Coray.
What’s next, anything you’re excited about?
Some projects for Herman Miller [stay tuned! - ed.] – and a ‘Tent’ for Louis Vuitton.
Which is your favourite city in Asia Pacific and why?
Tokyo - it’s where I lived and it influenced me a lot. In fact, it’s energy still surprises me whenever I go back.
Posted by Lauren Evans