June 1, 2006
In the Fold
Charles Kaisin’s extendable K-Bench for Vange.
“I like all materials really, and I like discovering the best ways to make a very strong object,” says Brussels-based designer Charles Kaisin, whose fascination with materials spans from ceramics to chocolate. It’s also an interest that led him to the Kyoto University of Art & Design, where he spent a year studying origami. His research found expression in a painstakingly constructed extendable bench made out of folded compressed newspaper. “If you fold paper a certain way, it can become an indestructible object,” Kaisin says. The latest version of the K-Bench—assembled from polypropylene sheets and intended for both indoor and outdoor use—is now available for the first time in the United States through Vange (www.vange.be). The beehive pattern allows the seat to bellow out to almost 10 feet, and the benches can be joined with aluminum clips to create straight or curvy forms. Here Kaisin takes us through the particulars of his design.
I first made the bench out of newspaper, which served as the prototype for the polypropylene version. I sandwiched six pages of newspaper together with wallpaper glue, which I then put in a big press to achieve the thickness of cardboard. I used about 500 cardboard sheets for the bench, or about 3,000 newspaper pages.
Each space is a hexagon, which creates a honeycomb-like structure and allows the bench to extend.
There are two versions—one newspaper and the other polypropylene. The newspaper one is more like a limited-edition sculpture. The plastic one is very functional; you can put it inside or outside, by the swimming pool or in the garden. I wanted to use recycled plastic, but it wasn’t strong or resistant enough to light and water, so ultimately I used polypropylene instead.
There are four different color options: orange, white, charcoal, and translucent. With so many variations, you can match the piece to your existing furniture: white for something very modern, gray with classic interior architecture, and the orange for an industrial loft.
The bench extends to accommodate guests, and you can also play around with different shapes. Using the optional clips, you can create a perfect circle or link benches together to form a serpent-like structure.
I worked for several months with the engineer at Vange to design a machine to produce the bench. We found a very specific technical process called “ultrasound melting” that uses a high frequency to melt together sheets of plastic. Before that I tried various kinds of glue—and even double-sided tape—but the plastic created too much resistance.