DesignerProject Team : Omer Arbel, Mark Dennis
Born in 1976, Omer Arbel graduated from Architecture School in 2000, and, after apprenticeships in architectural practices, co-founded two companies in 2005. Both posit new ways of thinking about the act of ‘making’, and are structured to encourage synergy.
Arbel leads OAO (Omer Arbel Office), a multidisciplinary design practice active within the traditionally defined fields of building, industrial design, craft, invention and materials research. The office is structured to explore the possibilities inherent in blurring the boundaries between these fields. OAO operates within constantly oscillating parameters of scale, site, socioeconomics, phenomenological experiment, power relationships, environmental imperative and allegorical relevance, with the goal of creating extraordinary projects. Notable works include a celebrated house called 23.2 and, with Corrine Hunt, the design of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Medals.
Arbel acts as Creative Director for the Design and Manufacturing company Bocci. Bocci’s focus is to develop open ended manufacturing procedures derived from material properties and fabrication methodology, resulting in different form in each iteration of the procedure. The intent is to find ways of imbuing objects with meaning through specificity, such that they merit a committed relationship as companions in people’s lives, rather then being consumed in a casual manner. Notable works include 14 and 28, both ambient chandeliers which challange the conventional central sculptural format of the chandelier archetype; and 22, a set of electrical outlets, switches and accessories which completely redifine a tired corner of the construction industry.
Both companies have achieved near instant critical and commercial success, and position Arbel as a young voice within the international design community.
23.2 is a house for a family, built on a large rural acreage. There is a gentle slope from east to west and two masses of old growth forest defining two “outdoor rooms” each with a its own distinct ecology and conditions of light; the house is situated at the point of maximum tension in between these two environments, and acts at once to define, and also to offer a focused transition between them. The design of the house itself began with a depository of one hundred year old Douglas Fir beams reclaimed from demolished warehouses. The beams had astonishing proportions of different lengths and cross sectional dimensions. It was agreed that the beams were sacred artifacts in their current state and that we would not manipulate or finish them in any way. Because of the irregular dimensions, we needed to commit to a geometry that would accommodate the tremendous variety in dimension, while still allowing the possibility of narrating legible spaces. We settled on a triangular geometry. Reclaimed beams were used to assemble triangular frames; these were folded to create a roof, which acts as a secondary artificial landscape draping over the gentle slope of the site. We manipulated the creases to create implicit and explicit relationships between indoor and outdoor space, such that every interior room had a corresponding exterior room. In order to maximize ambiguity between interior and exterior space, we removed definition of one significant corner of each room by pulling the structure back from the corner itself, and introducing an accordion door system, such that the entire façade on both sides could retract and completely disappear. We developed a detail that would allow the beams to define not only the ceilingscape of each interior room, but also to read strongly as elements of the building façade.