Modular Sideboard : Form & Purpose The Modular Sideboard investigates the interaction of organicist and mechanist domains of understanding. The domains are investigated through the study of volumetric shape, order, material, and assemblage of two entities: the natural wood modules, and aluminum fittings. The wood modules are highlighted by their overall chamfered geometry, variations in openings and carried over to rounded edge conditions. The hand-crafted nature of the module’s parts and joinery further celebrate the process of making with the human hand. Reflecting organicism, the units can change, remaining dynamic in model, quantity, and composition. The second, the powder-coated cylindrical aluminum feet and couplings identify with industrial manufacturing and processes. These mechanistic parts, however, lack an intrinsic relationship. They remain autonomous due to the wood modular divisions of the piece, a contradiction of sorts, and surrendering to the organic nature of component growth. Both the growth and repetition of modules and couplings unite the piece physically and conceptually. The modularity of the design, however, is flexible. Units can be interchanged and reversed to open on both sides, allowing for diverse compositions including free-standing positioning of the piece within a space. Countering flexibility, the couplings are fixed in place for all proposed assembly models, retaining their mechanic and structural dominance. Precarious and fragile while bold and strong, both wood and aluminum elements embody to differing degrees something of the other. The encounter and physical connection of the two material forms and their inherently different manufacturing processes can draw out conflict, albeit discreetly. These differences help one to infer meanings, building awareness and intentionality into the visual expression. They can enable one to experience the fullness of the world, including delight that the piece might bring into the space of built environments. The Modular Sideboard provides the ability to compose multiple configurations from standard unit types, including models with dual-sided openings, which is a major criterion in the design of the piece. The challenge to include a desk version dictated modular heights in response to an ergonomic function. Material specifications and color concepts for the fittings are included in the visual presentation.
John Sandell is an architect and educator. His projects and built works range from furniture and residences to pedestrian streets and urban spaces. He has collaborated on many prize-winning mixed-use, institutional, and urban design projects in Switzerland and Italy, and completed single-family residential projects in Italy, Texas, Florida, and Oregon. His work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally, including the Venice Biennial. Projects have been honored with several Florida State design and research awards from the American Institute of Architects. John received an undergraduate degree in architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and graduate degrees in architecture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Milan Polytechnic.