Sam Jacob is principal of Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design, a practice whose work spans scales and disciplines from urban design through architecture, design, art and curatorial projects. The studio’s recent projects include the V&A’s first international gallery in Shenzhen, a new home for the Cartoon Museum in London, an office and event space for Art Review and a new gallery in south London. Forthcoming work includes a new mixed use building in London’s Hoxton, and the National Collections Centre for the Science Museum Group housing over 300,000 objects in a new 27000sqm building.
Exhibitions include The Lie of the Land at MK Gallery exploring the ideologies of landscape and planning, Museum Show at DKUK investigating the phenomena of contemporary museums, Fear and Love at the Design Museum, London and a forthcoming exhibition on landscape with Piet Oudolf at Shunck, Heerlen, NL. Solo exhibitions include Disappear Here on perspective, power and representation at the RIBA Gallery (2018) and Empire of Ice Cream at Betts Project (2019).
Jacob has contributed to the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016 and 2014 (where he was co-curator of the British Pavilion) and 2012, Pattern as Politics at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale (2019, with Priya Khanchandani) and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2017). He has been a columnist for the Architects Journal, Art Review and Dezeen and is the author of ‘Make It Real, Architecture as Enactment” published by Strelka Press.
Through the parallel activities of criticism and proposition Jacob displays a continuing interest in the way architecture manifests and embodies social and cultural ideas. Previously he was a founding director of FAT Architecture.
Response to COMMUNITY
Design at heart is an act that produces community. Though its day to day job seems to involve organising material and space, what it really does is organise relationships between us, each other and the world.
These are pieces of furniture as social sculpture that highlight the way that chairs organise our bodies in space.
Different chairs work in different ways, shaping how we feel and behave and how we sit in relationship to each other. The office chair and the armchair, for example are themselves products of the division of (bureaucratic) labour and relaxation. Each expresses an ideological position, which in turn positions us.
In the 17th century, S- shaped love seats emerged that created seating arrangements allowing courting couples to talk intimately without touching, manifesting the public morality of the time in furniture form. Here though, these adaptations take as-found, individual chairs then rearranges them in different ways: Back to back, side to side, in groups of varying number. Each of these new arrangements creates a different social situation. Each presents a “unity through inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion” as Robert Venturi put it in Complexity and Contradiction.
These pieces are a kind of junkshop love seats exploring how more ambiguous and experimental relationships and community can be formed by furniture. The pieces seek to expose the social programming invisibly embedded within seating, and in doing so help us recognise the chair as a political idea as much as a design object.
The project also explores how the process of design and making forms community. Made from different 2nd hand pieces, each with its own past life and character, now bound together using tape into a new whole. Our process has formed communities too – from eBay sellers to our dialogue between London and Melbourne. The act of making these pieces was extremely distanced – by pandemic, by geography, by timezone – yet perhaps because of this also highly collaborative. And that process becomes part of the chair’s expression showing how making itself is an act of community.