Made in Italy, the new FENIX NTM Compact is a 10mm-thick structured, double-sided panel with the award-winning surface qualities of FENIX NTM and a consistent colour from edge to core. We invited three of Singapore’s leading creative practices to imagine how this high-performance new material could be used beyond the surface in functional objects. They dreamed big, then brought their ideas into physical reality.

TAKENOUCHI WEBB

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Established in October 2006, Takenouchi Webb is a partnership between British architect Marc Webb and Japanese interior designer Naoko Takenouchi. The studio believes in a holistic approach to design, developing the architecture, interior and furniture for each project. The design approach of Takenouchi Webb is a carefully considered combination of materials, detailing and precision combined with practical problem solving unique to each project.

Material as inspiration for design.

“The surface quality of the FENIX NTM Compact material is very paper like, very soft,” says Takenouchi. “And another thing that intrigued us is how you can shape the edge with a CNC machine.” A rounded bullnose edge became a conceptual starting point, and from there the designers developed two tables with ‘natural’ curvature – not quite oval, and not quite circular. “One evening we began experimenting with large sheets of paper. We used my body as a compass to draw the curves,” explains Takenouchi.

Keen to ensure the strength and stability of the tables, Takenouchi Webb paired FENIX NTM Compact with plywood – a material that could just as easily be finished with a rounded edge. The result is a pair of dual-sided, slot-together tables, which can be fully dismantled and put to a side of the room when they’re not needed. Ash veneer was applied to the ply side of the table tops in such a way that the wood grains appear like the veins of a leaf. “Paper and timber; I think the materials naturally go together,” says Takenouchi

Paper Leaf

“For a long time, we’ve wanted to have a low table that has a versatile function for our living room,” explains Takenouchi. “Sometimes we want nothing in the space so the children can just play. But other times we want to have a big, low table where they can sit, have dinner, and do drawings. And after they go to sleep, we can start drawing.”

The double-layered surface created the flexibility to alter the look of the tables with ease. And for Webb, the slot-together format takes him back to his own childhood. “Did you ever have those coloured plastic discs that you slotted together to build things?” he asks. “We wanted these tables to have that playful character.”

STUDIO JUJU

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Studio Juju is led by Timo Wong and Priscilla Lui to practice design across disciplines in furniture, products and spaces. The studio’s approach is fresh and optimistic and each project is a union of simplicity and warmth, functionalism and whimsy, refinement and relevance. Timo and Priscilla consider their design practice as a freedom to exploration, and as a medium for collaboration.

Material as inspiration for design.

“I see a very intimate quality in this material,” says designer Priscilla Lui, co-founder of Studio Juju. “It encourages you to touch it because it’s so matt and soft. So we wanted to design something that has a very personal resonance.” The idea of creating a dresser using FENIX NTM Compact quickly came to Lui and her partner Timo Wong.

Says Wong, “Our furniture-design process involves a constant distillation of essential physical elements. The material appears as an untainted delicate surface, but it is also technically durable and strong. With these qualities combined, we can achieve simplicity in both design and construction.”

Jetson

The design of Jetson developed into a confluence of rounded shapes, deviating from the rectilinear and planar formats in which panel materials are often used. “Taking away the straight lines took away the volume and weight,” explains Wong. “It also created a visual lightness. That helps to encourage the experience we wanted.”

The dresser is supported by a framework of curving steel at its base. Explains Lui, “We drew a hyperbolic curve, which brings some tension to the whole form. It gently touches the vertical surface, then it curves away again.” And inherent in the final form is a delightful trick of the eye — the impression that the mirrored vertical surface is actually curved.

The asymmetrical format was adopted to enhance the soft shape. Says Lui, “The softness of the form enhances the quality of touch and of mattness of the material. It piques your senses and makes you feel like you want to touch it more.”

K2LD ARCHITECTS

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K2LD is a boutique architectural firm committed to delivering bespoke design solutions for every project. The firms ideas are rooted in the "sense & sensibility" of architecture. Elements of space, light and materials are crafted to create an architectural experience that delights the senses, and the continual refinement of human aspiration, technology and environment are key sensibilities towards the emergence of beauty and excellence in design.

Material as inspiration for design.

Furniture or sculpture? The objects — titled Niminy-piminy — created by Ko Shiou Hee, Managing Director of K2LD Architects, are both. The genesis of the concept came about some 25 years ago, when Ko took an independent study class in sculpture, and designed a table with interlocking panels of MDF. The structure was such that it could be flipped on its side and take on the character of a sculpture.

When he was introduced to FENIX NTM Compact, Ko was immediately drawn to the possibility of experimenting further with the concept. FENIX NTM Compact embodies the unique combination of being slim yet hardy, and Ko chose to experiment with how he could make an unconventional use of the rigidity of the panels.

He and K2LD designer Fiorella Amedai began pairing FENIX NTM Compact with other materials to test asymmetrical configurations for interlocking, freestanding forms. “I didn’t want to use the material just as a surface,” says Ko. “I wanted to prove a point – that you can support anything with a minimum of three legs.”

Niminy-piminy

Working with panels of FENIX NTM Compact and large-format pre-finished wood-veneered panel, Ko designed two tables that can double as shelves. Or are they sculptures? The differing sizes of the two tables indicate the scalability of the interlocking concept. Spines composed of two layers of FENIX NTM Compact establish the stability required for the dual use and enhance the structural strength of each object.

Ko enhanced the soft feel of FENIX NTM Compact with the textured veneered panel, and played it off against supple leather. The removable leather newspaper pouch is in fact a reference to a previous installation created by Ko for EDL; The Hive was an inhabitable sculpture composed of looped ‘petals’ of FENIX NTM. “The material inspired us because of its mattness. When you touch it, there’s a sensual feel. That’s what inspired The Hive,” Ko explains.

“When we began this project,” he says, “we thought we might create something completely new, but the interlocking concept has so much possibility.”

Text by Narelle Yabuka, adapted from EDL feature in Cubes #87.