Design objects and products
The FOAM concept:
China has long history of drinking tea, dated back to the far old time. Many believe Tea Culture started from Chinese.
However tea tables in China did not go too far back until the Qing Dynasty. Today tea table takes many design forms. It basically divides to two parts, the counter top and its base support. The top could be squares, rectangles, polygons, circulars, and other irregular shapes.
This tea table design originates from a purest geometry – a cube, and its base support is inspired by a foam structure. In another word, the molecular structure of water in its foam state becomes the structure of the tea table. The foam has a natural configuration but is artificially framed by a cubical shape. The difference between each facade of the cube is minimized. The appearance of the table top from the base support is also eliminated. The tea table is read as a holistic whole, thin and transparent, like a cluster of bubbles, visually weightless.
Components of the tea table:
This tea table with a cubical shape can easily fit in any regular chair or sofa setting without causing conflict. It can only cause pleasant surprise. The basic components of the tea table include a translucent glass table top and a supporting structure system, which is a statically indeterminate structure. This structure not only ensures a strong load bearing function, but also allows each rod member to be very thin. Thus, the tea table is very stable on one hand, and is light weighted on the other. The latter makes it convenient to be moved around as needed, and also visually delicate and decorative.
The structure system derived from the Foam Theory:
The structure of the tea table is derived from the famous Foam Theory. Kelvin had launched and proved an ideal foam structure in 1887 in the field of physics. The foam structure, in which a space may be partitioned into cells of fixed equal volume with minimum surface area, was speculated as the most stable one.
A basic foam unit has been developed from the theory. It comprises a tetrakaidecahedron (fourteen-sided polyhedron)，and 14 twelve-sided polyhedrons. The unit can attach many copies of its own together, edge to edge, infinitely, to become a statically indeterminate structure. We rotate the structure in certain degree and carve it out with a cubical shape to get the structure of the tea table.
A few structural design attempts: when the base support system looks fine from every angle, we then need to search for a simplification. Using parametric tools and maintaining its visual randomness, we successfully reduce the members to a minimal. Meanwhile there are two methods of installation. One is welding and the other is tectonic connection. Under the tectonic connection method the number of connection needs to be reduced to a minimal. We end up having 4 different lengths for the members and 7 types of connections. Nevertheless the connection varies a lot thus we adopted welding for the first patch of member production.
The structure of the tea table is a series of steel rods with 6mm diameter welded together. The challenge of the assembling work is to position two end points of each rod in the space and weld two adjacent ones together. The workers used precast mould to position the rods. After sanding and polishing the rod assembly, the electrostatic spray of powder coating is applied on the surface.
8mm thick emulsified ultra white glass panel is used as the table top. The translucent glass top can hide the lighting fixture below in an appropriate way on one hand, and can minimize its own visual appearance on the other. The combination of metal and glass contributes the light weight visual effect and thus perceptually enlarge the space where the tea table fits in.
A small flat circular lighting fixture is positioned on the steel rods under the table top. It has a free end wire and switch. It is very convenient to move the tea table wherever needed.
The downward ray of light illuminates the foam structure and cast the shadow of it on to the floor around the tea table. The play of light and shadow becomes the unique scene, which renders the space with more 3 dimensional depth and dynamic quality.
The color can be pure white or with bright colors. White Tea table matches with the space whereas colored Tea Table stands out of neutral ambience and thus becomes a focal point. This Tea Table adapts to multiple colors.
553mm X 565mm (with 8mm thick glass), approximates to a cube.
Real application case:
This Tea Table has been perfectly used in the following project. In the VIP Lounge of the National Aquatic Center Watercube, 9 Foam Tea Tables are placed among 9 pairs of square sofas. The structural forms of the building as well as the lighting fixture under VIP Lounge ceiling are both originated from this Foam Theory. The Tea tables, and the structural form and the spatial installation device at the VIP Lounge room speak of the same design language, and sufficiently present a theme that is full of innocent and pleasant joy.
The Tea Table is designed in a permeable manner so the carpet joins with the surrounding walls and ceiling to maintain their visual connectivity.
Being a small device, the Tea Table cultivates a dynamic and expressive feel in the space.
Gross Floor Area (mq)0.312
Design teamStudio A+
Min Wang, Mei Ding, Shutao Lu, Tao Long