Architecture

It’s Obvious, I Think: Choice Words with Architect Sam Chermayeff

 Chermayeff’s Street Light Table
Chermayeff’s Street Light Table

The light and curvature of a streetlight, a Berlin streetlight, long, narrow and paddle-like, an actual streetlight, looms over a white, 4mm steel-plate coffee table, powder-coated, almost a squinted pencil drawing appearing in space but still clearly a table, likely a table someone might have coffee at, I would have coffee at it. This table where I might have coffee, with its massive, brushed metal and seemingly impossible tumor, nearly a rendering, but still definitely real. Seeing Street Light Table, as its designer, Sam Chermayeff, has called it, immediately sets my mind racing with the impossibility of the thing: how big am I really in relation to this streetlight? In reply to my inquiry, Chermayeff writes a simple explanation: “Street Light Table brings overhead light everywhere needed.” In my confusion, I laugh and smile. I think of Ursula K. Le Guin’s take on reality—“I don’t know what is real, but I know what I like.” Light everywhere needed. This table, the streetlight, it is surreal, absurd, quite terrifying but somehow adorable, impossible; this is clearly a table by Sam Chermayeff.

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