KPCC was a project that started long ago in the world of custom office furniture. It was four years ago when I first attended a meeting at the architecture firm, Chu + Gooding. When I arrived at their office I could barely concentrate on the task at hand due to the lollapalooza of interesting mock-ups, posters, magazine images and samples that adorned the walls of their studio. I may have appeared distracted or come across as rude, but it was a feast for the eyes and mind.
We had been asked to their fabulous office to discuss the development of custom workstations for a new space in Pasadena to be occupied by the public radio station, 89.3 KPCC. The architect, Annie, was looking to create a space with “non-cubicle” and “non-corporate” looking workstations and sustainable office furniture. She and I began sketching and talking about materials, the space itself and how the client wanted their space to function.
On the back wall of the studio there was the most perfect triangular piece of white wool felt pinned to the wall. She mentioned that she had come across the felt while in Norway. Ahh, inspiration! I mentioned that we at TangramStudio were having a love affair with felt. After all, what’s not to love about a warm, textural material that is made from recycled sweaters? The question then became – how could we use this sublime, natural, acoustical, tack-able and environmentally friendly material? Since it feels somewhat warm like a blanket, we immediately thought about wrapping the panels with it. We designed a panel wrap that would wrap from under the surface, up around the top to create a soft, radiused top cap.
As we worked our way through the design concept, Annie pushed for a creative way to combine the functional items required in a workstation. The client had requested overhead cabinets. These usually end up creating an oppressive, heavy datum line that dominates the space. So to reduce this effect, we designed the spine panels so that our installation crew could install the overheads at random, varying heights. This created an undulating cityscape appearance in the space.
All of these design elements seemed easy except for the felt panels. How were we to affix the felt to the panel? What kind of felt…neddled or felted? How thick…F-7 or f-15? How should it be cut…water jet, laser or saw? Luckily, there is a felt mill close by our office (we strive to use locally manufactured office furniture whenever possible). After three wrong turns and two phone calls, we found the non-descript building that housed all of the answers we were looking for. Inside was every imaginable felt available. Rolls after rolls, 6 inches high to 96 inches high. There were all of the colors – white, grey, green (for lizard cages), dark grey (for trunk liners).
There were multiple rounds of gluing, cutting and stretching of the felt until we had a material that could slide into a track/frame system. The end result involved the felt being bolted to the metal panels. This also added to the sustainability of the new workstations. If the felt would to become soiled, it could be removed by simply removing four bolts and pulling it off the panel. This way, the felt could be sent back to the mill and placed in the hopper for recycling.
Our love affair with felt continues…