International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati has collaborated with Italian furniture manufacturer Cassina to develop SWISH, the prototype of a kinetic wooden stool. The project stems from a patented system by Carlo Ratti Associati based on the concept of “implicit programming” – using digital fabrication to create objects that are pre-programmed to take different shapes.
Produced with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinery, SWISH is a lightweight seat made of 27 thin, rounded wooden elements. The components are interlocked through a system of individually designed junctions and hinges, each different from the other. As a result, the object can take different configurations, in a way that would not be possible with traditional fabrication methods. This renders the object highly flexible and fully sustainable.
“SWISH has been the culmination of a very exciting research path for us,” says Carlo Ratti, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and a founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati: “We started working on self-assembly and implicit programming – the possibility for an object to assume predetermined, kinetic configurations – a few years ago. How can we use mathematically controlled geometry to “teach” a given material how to behave? SWISH is the first application of such a principle to a very basic piece of furniture: a stool.”
Thanks to a patented system of hinges, SWISH can be swiftly folded and hung to a wall, shifting in just a few seconds. Once closed, the seat reveals a surprisingly slender, comb-like shape. Designed parametrically, SWISH has been produced by an Italian craftsman.
“Cassina has always had an experimental soul,” comments Gianluca Armento, Cassina’s Managing Director: “The collaboration with Carlo Ratti Associati has allowed us to explore interesting ideas, from the Our Universe project to the SWISH prototype, that generate new concepts to be developed, from new types of furniture to a different approach to interiors.”
SWISH represents the continuation of a collaboration that began in 2013, when Carlo Ratti Associati and the R&D Centre of Cassina unveiled Our Universe, a forward-looking collection of prototypical decors investigating how technology can impact the design of everyday objects.
An initial version of SWISH emerged from a competition organized by the Milan-based workshop Miocugino in spring 2016. The initiative brought together both renowned designers and a group of young “Makers” from all over the world, all tasked with a common goal: designing a hardware-free stool by using wooden elements coming from a unique wooden sheet. Carlo Ratti Associati won the prize, and an early version of the seat was released in open source.
The prototype of SWISH was developed to be exhibited at Milan Design Week 2017 in the framework of “Cassina 9.0” – an exhibition curated by Patricia Urquiola to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary.