Philip Wood Speaks On Designing For The New Urban Family At Resource Furniture In San Francisco


Cultural critic, designer, and journalist Philip Wood spoke about “Designing For The New Urban Family” on September 22, 2015 at Resource Furniture‘s new San Francisco showroom. Guests enjoyed refreshments while participating in the discussion and enjoying demonstrations of the innovative transitional furniture collection. 

Resource Furniture’s Amelia Hyde with Francisco Pavon

Rachelle Dural, Austin Forbord, Caroline Wilson

Eve Petrucci, Florianna Petersen

George Brazil, Cecilia Sagrera Hill

Gaby Nejasmich, Chloe O’Keeffe, Sarah Kirkwood

David Nashif


Below are select key discussion points presented by Wood.


Death of Storage—Pictures

“Much of what started me thinking about this topic and what fueled my recent article in California Home + Design was a statement that I’d read whilst skimming through various news feeds early one morning. The title was ‘The Death of Storage’ It came from a man called Marcus Engman—here he is, very nice looking chap isn’t he? Well, whilst doing a little research on him the other night I came across several pictures, one a kind of corporate middle manager type, and the next a kind of youthful workwear Nordic hipster, maybe N ordic hipster is a camera filter that you get in Sweden. Anyway, I printed them out and luckily found a couple of Ikea frames that I had lying around that were intended for some of my family, but I’m too busy to frame my family as I’m busy framing Marcus here, he feels like family now, we’re even on first name terms.”

“Anyway who is Marcus Engman and why was the article graced with the hyperbolic title of The Death of Storage. Marcus here is the global head of design at Ikea, for a man in his position to talk about the death of storage is quite something, almost a blasphemy of sorts. He believes that our urbanizing world offers us less room for storage and that as our belongings, such as music, books, and movies dematerialize into a digitized cloud, we have fewer things to store. Thus, our less cluttered homes will become dedicated to displaying the things that we choose to remain.” 

“Depending on what generation you’ve traveled from to get here today, the dematerialization aspect of what he’s talking about may or may not be true, I still have a tremendous amount of physical books and quite possibly will never move from our house because of the physical trauma that I would incur by trying to move all of them. I no longer have any LPs or CDs or DVDs, those I have successfully dematerialized in a way unthinkable to someone growing up in the 1970s. It seems to me that yes, I probably do have a bit more space by adopting a digital lifestyle, but like some strange law of physics, the space has been consumed again.”

“I think the underlying change that the digital age has brought about is one of savoring the physical, the digital has us reappraising the physical in all sorts or ways. This generations craft revival, although easy to poke fun at, and William Morris was certainly made fun of, reveals I think what is a deep need and human condition. Making things is something that has set us apart from every other life form on earth for several hundred thousand years, if not more.”

“What I see in craft, and originally I was trained in English furniture making, is that at its root, regardless of your choice of medium, whether it be glass or metal, ceramic or timber, craft is about being considered, to be deeply engaged in the material and process. This consideration is a point of hope, for as Mr. Engman, who at least in this picture looks like someone who may engage in a little weekend wood turning, goes on to say, our homes are about to become much more considered.”

Rising Urbanity—Public vs Private—Bird Spikes

“He’s right to be thinking about urban living, and it’s a topic whose validity for discussion is supported by some quite remarkable facts. According to the UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), today, 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050. The world’s urban population in 1950 was around 750 million. It is expected to surpass six billion by 2045.” 

“This fundamental change in how we live of course brings about many challenges on how we provide and organize housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy, as well as basic services. However, for our purposes it’s space and the treatment of space that interests us the most.” 

“In around the early 1600s in Britain there began a series of Enclosure Acts, which took the common land what we now call public space and brought it under private control. This loss of public space has continued mainly unabated to the point that we now have a whole industry involved in producing methods of keeping humans off or what remains of our public space. I’m thinking anti-skateboard additions to curbs and seating. Also, anti homeless spikes in London recently which are a human extension of the plastic and galvanized spikes that are liberally sprinkled across the architectural skyline to stop birds from landing. We’ve seen a whole host of failures of urban strategy, most notable was the way in which we let the automobile dominate the planning of our cities during the 20th century as people like Jane Jacobs have so poignantly relayed to us.”

“This diminishment of public space along with the decreased potential for domestic space provide potentially deep psycho physical problems for our urban inhabitants, and the home is arguably becoming more necessarily sacred and important as a place for peace. There is of course a parallel between the impact city planners have upon our urban experience and the prescriptive nature of urban domestic spaces that large scale urban residential developments can often bring. These large programs have large scale economic strategies behind them that often have no thought to ourselves as individuals and the communities we grow.” 

“It is up to us to combat these strategies with our design tactics, the loss of public space is in some ways being reproached by the insertion of mini urban spaces, parklets being an obvious example. These tactics run against the larger strategies of public planning and afford a notion of how space can and should be accommodated. The improvisation aesthetic of many of may be rooted in the political interventionist mentality, but the parklets offer a tactic of engagement with space which is highly counter to the conventional.”

Space—Key Tag or Book

“Space is so often quantified by square feet and possibly how many bathrooms (which I always think is an unusual and rather strange metric), but of course all of us have walked into a space and felt a deep calm come across our mood, the space itself, regardless of size, has a certain set of qualities.” 

“As we all know, size and quality often seem to have a kind of inverse proportional relationship, unless we’re talking ice cream. But for many decades we’ve yearned for larger and larger homes, mainly as an appeasement to some sort of status anxiety or FOMO. But size, I think, is a distraction and quality can be also. I think there’s much to discover and develop in the qualities of a space. It’s a phenomenological approach I know and one that many are indebted to Mr. Gaston Bachelard, who along with sounding very smart and very French, wrote a truly beautifully titled book The Poetics of Space.”

“Bachelard was a close reading of the home, a kind of psychogeographic trip through our domestic territory that led him to contemplate each nook and each cranny, the symbolism is endless, but what truly emanates from a space, a home, is not its post code or bathroom count, but something much more subtle.” 

“Although we have to varying degrees moved on from the formal and didactic structuring of the domestic landscapethe bedroom, the dinning room, the drawing room being spaces of very prescribed function through to a much more fluid way of using space and living within a home despite the nomenclature still being in use.”

“The urban home is not the rural idyll that Bachelard investigates, the urban home is one of multi function where there is no dinning room, there is a room which is dinning room, play room, tv room, crafting room, guest bedroom, and a few other rooms combined. Our urban reality calls for a deeper appreciation of function, yes, but also of how we can accommodate those changes of pace, of intimacy, privacy, and mood.”  

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