Architecture-Turned-Furniture: A Beijing Designer Reimagines Contemporary Chinese Monuments in Beds, Bookshelves, and Cabinets

Contemporary China is home to some serious urban simulacra—from towns built with mini Eiffel towers to housing complexes in the style of Andalusian villas or Dutch townhouses, disorienting luxury environments in which Jean Baudrillard would have had a field day. What results is a hybrid of globalized styles, reflective both of aspirations towards international living, and of an ethos of expert copying. Beijing-based designer Naihan Li takes up the question of urban replication, and master emulation, in her transformations of iconic architecture into functional furniture. 

After returning to China from her studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Naihan Li was struck by the rapid development of her home city, as well as its simultaneous historical decay. Her “Flammable” series of finely carved skyscraper candles incarnated the way in which she witnessed these cityscapes change. The “Crates” series of pop-up, fold-out furniture—nominated for the 2012 Design of the Year Award by the Design Museum in London—sprung from the conditions of nomadic, globe-trotting lifestyles. 

This is all part of Li’s ongoing “I Am a Monument” series, rendering famous buildings into slightly tongue-in-cheek, but elegant, furniture pieces—the Pentagon, a hub of military security, becomes “the safest bed in the world,” the wise UN-building becomes a bookcase, and the New York Stock Exchange is an optimistically fortune-bringing shrine. Each edifice is scaled-down to exactly one-hundredth of its size, also referencing the tradition of ancient Chinese painting to contain miniaturizations of the world outside. During Design Miami/, Li’s CCTV Wardrobe will be shown by Gallery ALL for the first time in Miami—the legendary OMA-designed Beijing media building, converted into a home-sized storage space made from Brazilian Bubinga wood. With its asymmetric geometries, and a profile that is different from every angle, the CCTV’s shape remains a unique object. A comment on the desire to possess something monumental, the series plays on the predilection for displaying ostentatious installations within the four walls of one’s home. 

Hannah Gregory

Visit Gallery ALL at Design Miami/, Booth C/03, Dec. 3–7, 2014, part of the Design Curio program. 

Discover more artists at Gallery ALL on Artsy

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