The celebrated Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi is alleged to have said that “the straight line belongs to men, the curved line to God.” This is the quote that Chen Kuan-Cheng chooses to summarize his affinity for curved lines in his own work; they’re a way to reach toward nature and the divine through craftsmanship. “My designs often incorporate them, but curves and weaving elements are difficult to produce in mass production,” Chen says. The hard work of these fluid, beautiful curves is what makes the young designer’s furniture so eccentric and inventive. It’s a technique that’s paying off, winning him renown in his home country of Taiwan and internationally.
As an industrial designer and craftsman with a decade of experience under his belt, Chen’s primary goal is to “immerse users in the design of objects.” To this end, he utilizes nature-inspired designs, computer-driven parametric modelling, and intricate woodwork. His stunning Lattice Chair is made of wood loosely woven together in a latticed pattern. Bamboo takes centre stage in the design—its flexibility and lightness exploited to their full capabilities. A single armrest sits on one side of the chair, with the other side open, allowing for versatility of use while giving aesthetic fluidity to the flow of the lattices. The eye naturally glides over back and forth over the chair directed to take the whole object in.
Chen notes that although bamboo is quite common in Taiwan, bamboo products have been gradually replaced by plastics and metals. Still, he prioritizes working with the material, the durability and pliancy of which is well-suited to his curved designs. “Bamboo carries a sense of time and life,” he reflects, making it an obvious choice for his furniture, which he describes as “depicting memories of natural landscapes.” He enjoys studying the antique bamboo and rattan furniture of Taiwan and then integrating these historical references with more modern and digital design techniques.
For the Flip Chair, designed in 2020, Chen combined expert wood craftsmanship with parametric design—using computer algorithms to shape certain design features—to bring together the traditional and the contemporary. There’s a surreal vitality to the bench: thin, vertically placed pieces of wood are bent toward each other to form the seat, confounding expectations for what a seat is supposed to look like and creating something almost alien. “The inspiration for the Flip Chair comes from wanting to recreate the experience of sitting on grass and feeling the breeze,” says Chen. Encounters with nature are influences he keeps coming back to; the flowing curves of the Lattice Chair are inspired by the waterfalls of Taiwan.
The N 3 Stool also has the influence of nature embedded into its ethos. With its interlocking curves—which appear natural, but which on closer inspection are quite complex—it looks more like a bizarre natural object than the result of human labour. The chair is constructed from curved wood pieces that fit together like a puzzle to create a three-legged stool. Chen says that the N 3 Stool and Lattice Chair are two of his favourite designs, which represent different stages of his personal growth: the N 3 Stool was his graduation project, whereas the Lattice Chair was his breakthrough work, winning him the prestigious A’ Design Award in 2021. With his deceptively simple designs and expert use of fresh, innovative techniques, Chen Kuan-Cheng is a designer to watch.