Blending Architecture, Furniture, And Universal Design By Patkau Architects

Based out of VancouverPatkau Architects are a multidisciplinary firm with an innovative, clever approach to material design.

Typically working in construction and architecture, Patkau Architects made an unexpected debut with a beautiful collection of stylish modern, organic, and warm wooden furniture.





Designed for Nienkämper, the collection features a number of items, including a stunning wooden bench, an open shelter made from bent panels, and several other pieces created primarily from plywood variants.





The piece that struck me the most is their Patkau Twist Chair, made from plywood – not only due to its aesthetic elegance but more-so because of the complexities involved in its creation. To appreciate the skill involved in this design, we must first understand a bit more about the material.





The use of bent plywood was pioneered, among others, by the iconic power of Charles and Ray Eames. The two power-duo designers famously worked for the US army during World War II, creating cheap, but durable leg splints for wounded soldiers – a project which helped pave the way for common bent plywood products in furniture, architecture, and industrial design.

One of the most important lessons they learned from that work was this: due to the linear wood grain structure of the sheets, plywood can only be warped in one axis at a time; this is what makes the Patkau Twist Chair so dazzling to look at.





Creating something between a sculptural illusion and material innovation, Patkau cleverly and simply layered 2 layers of birch and butt-joining them in a seamless fashion that makes it appear as if it’s melting from the center.

The panels are accentuated by thin hairpin legs, to keep the focus on the plywood. The entire chair convincingly appears incredibly light, and delicate. The process by which the chair was created was patented and developed by Nienkämper specifically for this project.





Historically, all of the great architects – from Lloyd Wright to Van Der Rohe – often designed their own line of furniture and loved to outfit their own interiors with them. This is mainly for two reasons:

Number one – architects are passionate and very detailed-oriented when it comes to the spaces they create – an unfortunate [yet relatable] truth.

Number two: if you can design a building, you can pretty much design anything from a chair to a car (or a fridge if you’re getting hungry!), as per believed by the Bauhaus philosophy – an early design academy that truly defined our modern understanding of a ‘designer’.

This historic movement holds a timeless concept: understanding universal design principals is the key to a successful design, no matter the craft, material, or medium.

Patkau Architects is a prime example of this concept, and I would bet that their cars and fridges would look just as fantastic.

For more innovative work like this, visit Patkau Architects


If you liked this piece, you might also like these pieces by great Canadian designers:

Rethinking Plywood: Cheap Alternative Or Luxury Material?

Vurv Design’s Camille Floor Desk, Coquitlam, BC

Material Innovation By Vancouver’s Studio Corelam


Researched and Written by Mikhail SK, Undergraduate Environmental Design, OCAD University

(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)
  • Reading time:4 mins read