In the San Remo Garage hidden within the narrow streets of the historical heart of Milan, London-based designer Max Lamb has unveiled a collection of chairs that ingeniously investigates the use of materials in design. The exhibition “Exercises in Seating” takes its title from the designer's thesis degree at the Royal College of Art, and it's a catalog of Lamb's past and ongoing experiments and investigations into materials. The 40 objects cover the wide range of materials and production techniques that the designer regularly works with - from pewter stools cast in beach sand to stoic seats hewn from whole logs. Each seat exemplifies a new production method, from the most simple and intuitive handmade trials to extremely sophisticated, complex and chemically controlled processes.
Often, Max Lamb’s work is defined as being created through a sort of primitive process, which seemingly creates design without intention, allowing the object to create its own shape. However, Lamb uses methods to carefully control the final results that he desires – his objects are not left free to have their own designs, as many people assume.
Lamb’s works share the lexicon of concepts such as sincerity, honesty, truth and, often, brutalism. The solder seat is a good example of a roughly finished and “honest” object.
Initially, Lamb made the white Poly Chair. However, from the cuts and leftovers of the material he decided to complete the pair designing one smaller seat instead of a second identical chair. Lamb sees this works as a pair of opposites and his choice of colors – black and white – underline the contrast of the design processes used to create the two pieces.
The Soft Poly Chair was carved out of a single piece of expanded polystyrene. It weighs 11 kg.
Lamb’s approach envisions materials as a brute force from which to obtain energy. This pushes the designer toward very original and sometimes primitive processing techniques. Like this Copper Stool and the Pewter Stool.
This stool is probably Max Lamb’s most famous work to date. To produce it, he used only sand, sea, and molten metal. The production process was performed entirely on a beach by the sea using hand-crafted techniques. Besides the art-like execution of the object, this stool is characterized by evocative surface textures left by the sand grains and silken sea water.
These two pieces made of silicone bronze are extremely heavy. Each weights about 45 kg and grain-like texture is peculiar characteristic not normally seen in seating designs. Bronze Poly Stool and Chair were produced for Johnson Trading gallery.
This piece was assembled from the two bluestone-carved rocks. The overall weight is about 120 kg.
This chair was shaped from one single piece of cypress log and weighs about 11 kg.
This chair was made out of a huge tree that Max Lamb took from his grandfather’s garden. The stool is only one among many pieces that were produced from that tree. “MY GRANDFATHER’S TREE” collection is a set of ash furniture designed for his family to “stay together”.
This design is an assembly of various tree essence types: maple, walnut, ash, beech and cherry dowels.
These two chairs are made out of 16g ERW mild-steel tubes. Each weighs about 10 kg.
This stool is one of Lamb’s more recent works in which the designer explores the borderline between handcrafted and industrially produced furniture. The stool is made of the two contrasting components: mass-produced regular wooden boards on top and manually carved wooden trunk at the base.
At a deceptively heavy 38 kg, this chair is made of engineered marble. The marble’s pattern was designed by Max Lamb from various stones brought from all over Italy.
This chair is folded from one single piece of oxidized 1.2 mm mild steel sheet. It weighs about 10 kg.
all images by the author for Inhabitat