Last April we visited the Salone del Mobile in Milan and were really impressed with Studio Pousti’s CHEFT collection, a set of furniture made with poplar wood sheets and assembled without using screws or glue. Last week we interviewed Maryam Pousti, Architect, Designer and founder of Tehran based Studio Pousti to find out more about her work. www.studiopousti.com
Where did you study Architecture and Design? What studies have brought you to where you are now?
I studied architecture at the AA (Architectural Association, school of architecture) in London, where I received my AA Diploma and RIBA part 2.
I completed my whole academic studies at the AA where I benefited from the diverse cultural spectrum that the school offered. I met so many great tutors and students who came from all sorts of cultural and social backgrounds. In a way the AA taught me about life.
After years working in London as an architect, why did you decide to set up your Studio in Tehran?
After a decade of being away from home, returning home was above all a personal choice. Having studied at the AA and working at offices in London, I became familiar with Western architecture. However, I knew very little about Persian architecture, which provoked a sense of curiosity in me to understand more about new approaches towards design and architecture. As Seyyed Hossein Nasr writes in The sense of unity by Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiyar, ‘The world of architecture could benefit from an understanding and an insight in to the principles of an architecture that is functional, logical, and abstract, but always spiritual in character, in direct contrast to so much modern architecture’.
How is your studio organized? What kind of team do you have?
I set up my studio in Tehran in 2013. I mainly work on my own when I am designing. At other times, I work closely with a team of experts in various fields such as carpenters, goldsmiths, artisans and manufacturers. I find it fascinating that there is so much to learn from people who spent most their time in workshop environments. In my opinion they can provide designers who are working with small-scale prototypes with a fresh perspective on material and manufacturing techniques, which I believe is of paramount value.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? What Architects and Designers inspire you?
I think inspiration can be found anywhere, in the most ordinary or extraordinary circumstances.
I remember the first time that I felt great joy and excitement was during a university trip with one of the most inspiring tutors I have had, Peter Salter, visiting the Fondazione Querini Stampalia by Carlo Scarpa in Venice. His attention to detail and the language of his design was absolutely breathtaking. As Peter later told us, if you can have just five good ideas and know how to use them in your architectural career, you are very lucky. I think Carlo Scarpa managed all his ideas beautifully, he meticulously experiments with various materials and uses them skillfully in his buildings.
I also admire Ron Arad‘s work who I think investigates new material and techniques very well. I have many favorites amongst his work but to name one would be the ‘Uncut chair’, which is a vacuum-formed aluminum sheet with polished stainless steel legs.
The emphasis was consistently on the importance of process in design both at the AA and the offices that I have worked for. I learned that although process may not be visible in the final outcome, it is equally important. Learning how to analyze a building’s detail, a material system or a building technique; followed by rigorous documentation of my work, became almost an obsessive habit that I developed and cherished the most. These methods have helped me manage projects of various scales, no matter if it’s a building project, a product or a piece of furniture; the same principle applies to all.
How does your work as an Architect influence your work as a designer?
Architecture and design are as similar as they are different. In both worlds the starting point could be a concept, a manifesto, a question or the intention to explore a manufacturing technique or material system. However, later in the process, they may diverge into various development processes in way of turning into a final product. In both cases the joy is in the process and how ideas can evolve.
Which materials do you prefer to work with?
There is no specific material that I would say I work with. It is more about how you can be impulsive and creative with different materials and how various techniques or manufacturing processes can be adapted to create a new experience, effect or spatial quality. It is almost like a game, you need to have a free mind, be open to new discoveries rather than having a fixed mind-set from the start.
We love your sustainable furniture collection CHEFT. Where did the idea come from? What makes it sustainable
The CHEFT collection comprises of a bookshelf, a meeting table, a kitchen stool and a seat-Shelf. I initiated the design process of the collection the way I would start the design of any architectural project, looking at it as a field with no or minimum pre-conceptions about the outcome. With a written manifesto, it is essential to leave it open and flexible so it can absorb new ideas. Strategies which led me to the development of the design were that I wanted a free-standing structure (I like to move around furniture once in a while to change my working environment), be made of sheet material (to cut down costs) and be easily transportable (in case I change location) .
Development of the project involved making lots of physical models and one to one prototypes in the experiment phase. The element of line and how it can become three-dimensional was also something that I took from the evolvement of Persian domes from line patterns. The Azadi tower in Tehran which is a monument designed in the 1970s by Hossein Amanat and later built by Arup Group was another inspirational point, where the transition of two-dimensional patterns to volumes is evident.
The CHEFT collection was developed using only one material, ‘Poplar sheets’ (no nails, glue or screws are needed for assembly), which means the design is cut down to very minimal use of materials.
Another aspect of the design concept is that by changing an attribute in the design construction the function could be changed from a bookshelf to a table, chair and so on.
The use of only one material and multi-functionality of the objects makes this minimal design sustainable. The shelf can be used both as a bookshelf or a partition to divide spaces.
The Collection has been exhibited at the Salone del Mobile 2015 in Milan and at the Paris Design Week in September 2015. The CHEFT bookshelf is manufactured in Pavia di Udine in Italy and can be ordered by emailing the studio. (email@example.com)
What are you working on at the moment?
I have recently made a trip to Kashan, a city in central Iran, where I was quite inspired by the traditional woven silk fabrics. I would like to cooperate with the artisans to incorporate this material in my designs.
What would you like to design next?
Coming from an architectural background, one of my goals is to have the opportunity to design buildings.
What social media do you use? How can people get in touch with you and see your work
My website and email:
Note: All photos in this post are courtesy of Studio Pousti.