Pia Wallén and Gabriel Tan’s Abstracta collections

Playful, tactile, and minimalist is how you might sum up Combo Deluxe by Pia Wallén. In her new creation for Abstracta, she has employed subtle, yet radical, means of redefining and expanding the role and significance of sound absorbers in a space. In doing so, Wallén has raised both the material and its functionality to be the central pillar of visual meaning and beauty.

Her solution is liberatingly simple and radical: re-interpret the screen’s suspension by making the brackets appear as adornments. “I wanted to enhance the brackets’ form and thereby transform otherwise purely functional sound-absorbing screens into aesthetic objects that also add beauty to a space”, explains Wallén.

Pia Wallén’s practice exhibits a strong continuity. A love of craftsmanship and a fascination with traditional materials and symbolism is evident in all her collections. Yet, there is also a passion to reinterpret – a desire to bend and twist traditions to give them a new lease on life. In her latest creation for Abstracta, Wallén’s interest in adornment comes to the fore.

The stylised figures in black and white, brightly polished steel and brass draw a clear connection to Wallén’s previous works. Here, however, they have been magnified to assert themselves in an interior space. In contrast to the screens’ warm and far more restrained felt materials, they feel like joyful cheers.

With Combo Deluxe, Pia Wallén and Abstracta have deepened a collaboration that began in 2016 with the success of Combo Cross. Due to its appearance at the 10 X Design Stories exhibition held at Stockholm’s recently re-opened Nationalmuseum, Combo Deluxe has already received much attention ahead of its launch.

A marriage of beauty and acoustics

 

It is the material of Sahara itself that does the talking – or whispering, rather. The wall panel created by Gabriel Tan is made of cork, a natural material that offers excellent acoustic properties. As simple and spontaneous as a sand formation carved by the wind, its shape is the perfect starting point for creating a multitude of patterns – from the asymmetrical to the symmetrical, from geometrically strict configurations to dynamic, random formations reminiscent of sand dunes.

The simple shape also permits the material to express its intrinsic nature. Cork has a clear and distinctive character that is restrained, yet expressive at the same time. And its innate acoustic properties are excellent.

— To me, cork brings a certain rawness and authenticity to the acoustic product category, says Gabriel Tan. I really like its touch and texture. It reminds me of sand, which explains how I came up with this design idea.

Tan’s creations for brands like Japan’s Ariake and Sweden’s Blå Station have been getting a lot of attention.

Although he is based in Singapore, his works are profoundly cosmopolitan – inspired by trips to other parts of the world, conversations and collaborations with other designers, and encounters with an array of cultures and craft traditions. Sahara is a case in point.

— A few years ago I was on holiday in Portugal and took the opportunity to visit a cork factory. At the time I had no idea how I might use the material; I was just curious.

That’s how I work. I travel, meet people, and gather impressions. I never know how or when I might apply these experiences, but eventually a project will emerge where I put them to use.

Sahara is made out of waste material from the production of wine corks at a factory in Portugal. Cork production occurs in harmony with nature; indeed, it helps to preserve Portugal’s beautiful groves and forests of cork oaks, which in turn provide essential habitat for the Iberian imperial eagle and other wildlife. Without cork production, the country’s cork forests would risk being replaced by farmland.