RockPaperRobot is an engineering boutique that is single-handedly transforming the way the design world looks at furniture, fusing technology with construction through the use of kinetic energy and turning each piece into a work of art. RPR co-founders, Mihae Mukaida and Jessica Banks, granted inspired.news an exclusive interview in which they discussed their revolutionary business venture and their road to success.
How would you describe your company?
MM: RPR is an engineering boutique specializing in the innovation and fabrication of kinetic furniture, lighting, and installations. The pieces in our collection diverge from traditional decor in that functionality and frivolity are largely prescribed by motion or an allusion to it.
JB: Think Charles Eames’s and Judy Jetson’s lovechild.
What is kinetic furniture?
JB: Kinetic furniture involves engineering customarily static objects into reactive objects with novel actuation schemes - from passive (e.g., levitating tables, melting chandeliers, manually reconfigurable shelves) to robotic (e.g., mechanized, computer-controlled chandeliers and storage systems). The goal is to enhance the functional value and social appeal of normal furniture.
Tell us about the Float table and explain how your technology makes this possible.
MM: Float is an example of classical physics applied to modern design. The table is a matrix of “magnetized” wooden cubes that levitate with respect to one another. The repelling cubes are held in equilibrium by a system of tensile steel cables. By varying the magnet strength we can control how rigid the table feels and how it reacts to objects placed on it, endowing it a capricious, yet sturdy disposition.
Once you had the idea, how long did it take you to perfect the engineering and how did you do it?
JB: After a bunch of research and prototypes that occurred in fits and starts, the idea morphed into what the table is today. We still tweak the build process, try out different parts, and play with aesthetic features all the time.
The New York Times categorized your work as part of a “rebirth of manufacturing in New York City.”
JB: Our studio is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where manufacturing goes back more than 100 years. We are also part of New Lab, a burgeoning development that fosters innovation in design, prototyping, and new manufacturing. By continuously practicing innovative design and fabrication in this historical location, we hope to be part of a trend in which smaller companies can sustain themselves by producing locally at volumes in at least the thousands while using cutting edge rapid prototyping tools –techniques that ten years from now will probably start having a major impact on the current manufacturing topography.
How is kinetic furniture and lighting better and more appealing to consumers?
MM: We like to think all of our kinetic furniture pieces increase the value of their static counterparts. Sometimes this is very clearly functional
- like our variable length space saving tables and reconfigurable shelves designed to increase versatility, but our work is often considered functional art and some of our designs are admittedly more conversation pieces than useful objects (like our Float table). JB: We hope our products provoke visceral reactions and create opportunities for “eureka experiences.” Giving someone even a split second of wonder or a moment of feeling like a kid again.
How do you think kinetic furniture will impact the world of interior design?
MM: Kineticism has the ability to introduce a level of versatility that’s not achievable with static pieces. The demand for space comes at a premium, meaning we have to do more with less. Multiplicity in function and form will be a huge game changer for interiors of the future.
What do you envision for the future of RockPaperRobot?
JB: We have over 40 different designs just waiting for our undivided attention and the resources to build them. We have plans for shelving, different shaped tables, a giant chess board (a commission), sculptures, and even “floating” candlesticks.
MM: As one of the select tenants of New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we’re working towards creating a renaissance of manufacturing, which means that technologies and new ways of execution have to be explored and really played with. It goes beyond what’s “possible” because what’s possible has been done before. Surrounded by an incredibly talented and diverse collective, there’s really very little we can’t make happen.
For more, visit www.rockpaperrobot.com