Is it a boat? Is it a wardrobe? It's both.
Boatrobe is a concept that consolidates nature, art and boats in a single piece of furniture. In this group project, we undertook the challenge of making a closet using a technique similar to building boats: steam bending. Boatrobe calls upon its viewers to question norms regarding furniture and its relationship with the material it is created using. All the wood used to create this wardrobe came from the remains of an actual boat. It also forces conversation about possessions and historical presentation of them as hidden or ‘closeted’ by exposing items through the skeleton structure.
We were all fascinated by canoes. We thought a lot about how a structure held itself up in water despite so much force around it.We were all also really intrigued by the skeleton structure of a canoe that’s mostly covered with canvas to help it stay afloat.
For this project, we really wanted to bring something that mostly had an outdoors function to our living room. We started off by thinking of different furniture pieces that we could design to look like a canoe and came up with ideas like table-tops, couches, lamps and wardrobes. We really liked the curved aspects to a boat and thought a lot about how we would incorporate that into our work.
We began by simple field research and delving deep into understanding how boats are actually built. We visited a local boatmaker:
After we gained an understanding of the construction process we had a brainstorming session where we finalized our design and envisioned what we would want our final piece to look like. Next we had to spend a lot of time really understanding the material we were working with and adapting to its nature. Since we really wanted to incorporate curved features, a major challenge my group faced was steam-bending. We engineered our own steam-benders from scratch. The iterations that our steamer went through and their results are here:
Once we had familiarized ourselves with that process, we spent time on the actual construction, which involved a lot of preciseness and structural analysis.
More process documentation:
I learnt a lot through this project, both conceptually and technically. I developed a strong understanding of how to take abstract ideas to tangible objects and I learnt a lot about iterative design. I also really enjoyed working with a group where we all possessed different skills and perspectives and learnt from one another. I think the project itself makes a strong commentary on furniture as it is and has traditionally been. By focusing more on the doors than on the back closet we were able to shift perspectives around by really questioning how we use space. By making it a ‘skeleton form’ rather than closed doors we made a conscious choice of questioning how we conceal everything we store inside our closets and what would it mean for people to reveal that. How would that impact interpersonal relationships and conversations inside a room? Would it make people uncomfortable? These are just some of the questions we hoped to bring to mind with our design while gaining a lot of technical skills about woodworking in the journey.