How Rive Roshan are sailing boldly into uncharted territory
By Purva Chawla
Bold graphic patterns and unafraid diffusing hues. Fabric, thread, wood, glass, stone and resin–a melange of materials, products, and installations made from them. If you were to place yourself in a room surrounded by the work of London-based design studio Rive Roshan, this is what you might sense first.
Looking a little closer, you would begin to see that each piece crafted by the studio is remarkably different from the next. Each entity breaks free of the functional mold it was cast in–tapestry, space-divider loom, scarf, kitchen cloth–and challenges what you might expect to see.
These projects and products are the work of Dutch designer Ruben de la Rive Box and Iranian-Australian designer Golnar Roshan.
What is unique about their creations is that they tell a powerful narrative; one that anticipates the emerging functional and aesthetic needs of users well before they can ever be defined by anyone, and expresses them in unique design entities.
Did you think for instance, that it would become valuable to have a modular, flexible fabric structure to configure and animate your interior spaces? Well, they did.
Did you imagine a tapestry to be anything other than a static, albeit beautiful, adornment of a wall? They imagined it. After looking at Loom Bound and Circadian Tapestry–two of their most recent works–it becomes evident that Rive Roshan are sailing boldly into uncharted territory. The best part of is, they are taking users and lovers of innovative design products with them.
This means that there is no way to predict what they may create next or to silo their work in any way. Rive Roshan's creative offerings are characterized by the complete blurring of lines between different kinds of design products and entities.
In fact, theirs is a studio that operates at the intersection of three disciplines–graphic, interior, and product design. This is apparent from the eye-catching graphics and patterns in many of their works–both products and installations. There are interactions of colour, refraction, and even lenticular effects tucked into multiple works.
So where does this mind boggling melding of realms originate? Golnar and Ruben met during their time at Marcel Wanders’ Amsterdam studio; she was trained as a graphic designer, and he as an interaction designer. At Marcel Wanders, they worked together on a project where the goal was to pull graphics into product design. Here it became clear that they shared an interest in this broader way of looking at design.
"It's frustrating to think of design in silos," Ruben says, during a recent chat with Rive Roshan."When you create a book or a chair, in many ways you are going through the same design processes, and considering similar factors".
This certainly explains why so many different practices seem to come together effortlessly in Golnar and Ruben's work. In doing this, their work embraces multiple fabrication processes and materials as well.
Recently, the duo's work has been pushing the boundaries of one material in particular–fabric. Through larger installation-like works such as Circadian Tapestry, Loom bound, Loom Divide and Trichroic Tapestries, they have explored the versatility of fabric, and how it can be used as a constructive, decorative and emotive material. For Loom Bound, Rive Roshan have tapped into the strength and flexibility of fabric, especially as a construction material, even using it as a hinge that can allow movement in three different directions. Loom Bound is a playful system that uses only fabric and wood to create endless modular and mobile set-up possibilities for contemporary interiors. A fully assembled Loom Bound object can be reconfigured and reconstructed at any given time.
Circadian Tapestry, which debuted at Northmodern in Copenhagen just weeks ago, and will be seen again at Electro Craft in London next, is another project that stretches the ways in which fabric is perceived and can be implemented. This modular tapestry moves slowly and transforms over a period. Without literally showing it, the tapestry expresses the passage of time through its movements. While doing this, it also serves the purpose of a mobile, interior element that personalizes any space and provides warmth and acoustic buffering.
Where did the idea for the tapestry originate? According to both Golnar and Ruben, it was the result of their gravitation towards ancient woven tapestries–often seen in old, chilly castles, hung on massive walls, where they served the purpose of bringing warmth to the interiors and improving sound quality. In many ways, Circadian Tapestry is Rive Roshan’s contemporary take on a traditional tapestry, one that caters to the nomadic lifestyle of young, urban dwellers today.
Golnar and Ruben’s various experiments with fabric reflect their love for this material. While for Golnar, it is an interest in how fabrics have been used over the ages–from the Yurts in Mongolia to the rugs that were meant to serve as tables in Iranian life, to the intricate laces from Flemish cultures—for Ruben, the fascination lies in the simplicity of the warp and weft of any fabric. It is this idea which is showcased in Loom Bound as well, where the fabric and wooden poles warp and weft together.
Despite these differing interests, the two designers are united in ingeniously using fabric in unexpected ways and at multiple scales. Among the products they will exhibit at the LDF this year, are the Hues Kitchen Cloths–an extension of their Hues range of fabrics. These shaded, multifunctional clothes can be folded in countless ways and used in any manner, creating a different outcome each time. Suddenly the experience of working with a kitchen cloth is an artistic and beautiful one!
Clearly, Rive Roshan's work spans many realms and formats. There has been commissioned work for brands and entities such as Moooi, Marcel Wanders, Tord Boontje, Tom Dixon, Bisazza, Cappellini, Swarovski, Hyatt Hotels, Wedgwood, and others. Their products have also been on show at venues such as Les Musée des Arts Decoratifs Paris, Powerhouse Museum Sydney, Shanghai Museum of Glass, and Design exhibitions around the world including Milan Design Week, Maison & Objet, Istanbul Design Week and London Design Festival.
While these accolades and recognition are monumental in themselves, there is another role that the two play that sets them apart.
As co-founders of Form&Seek–with Bilge Nur Saltik–a collective of international designers, they have helped create a strong aggregation of talent. Since 2013, when Form&Seek was founded, more than 72 designers have benefited from its support and visibility. And it’s not these designers alone. The three founders have themselves been strengthened by the collective power of Form&Seek as a design platform. Indeed, many of Rive Roshan's early works and experiments have found their window to the design world through Form&Seek.
With so many engaging works being exhibited around the world right now, we wonder what is on the horizon for Rive Roshan. We are delighted to learn of an upcoming commissioned work–a hotel in Amsterdam, where they are solely responsible for the interior surfaces of guest rooms, public spaces, and the member’s club.
From the conversation about their previous projects, we know that working on this larger scale and engaging actively with users (beyond products that are often viewed on a pedestal), is immensely exciting for them.
Also, on the horizon, is the further development of their collection Sediment Objects. The unique cast material created here is made from blended resins, wood, and powdered stone. It emulates nature's additive processes and attempts to create results that echo those that have taken millions of years to form. Rive Roshan are now hoping to develop this material further—make it more predictable and sheet-like, so that it can be used in a whole range of objects.
We are excited about Rive Roshan and Form&Seek’s evolutionary journey and the exciting road that lies ahead for them. MaterialDriven is proud to be their partner for the London Design Festival and will be cheering for them at the London Design Fair and BOXPARK Pop-up shop.