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Intelligent Design: Brad Ascalon on solutions to the demands of modern life

Brad Ascalon is the American designer behind Carl Hansen & Søn’s new Preludia Series. He talks to us here about his approach to design and his respect for the Danish Modern philosophy

The Preludia Series encompasses furniture designed to balance the modern demand for functionality and comfort with the timeless desire for beauty and quality. As Ascalon explains, it is wholly user-centric, therefore offering solutions for a wide variety of office, hospitality or residential environments. 

"It gives its users absolute and long-term comfort by supporting the body perfectly with the right contours and proportion. Simultaneously, the chairs are lightweight, extremely durable and of a very high quality; made from the most sustainable woods. The lightness and stackability allow for their flexibility, as various needs and constraints arise in the modern office or communal space."

Iconic twentieth-century designers such as Kaare Klint, who pioneered the Danish Modern approach to design, put function and human solutions at the heart of their philosophy. Similarly, Ascalon also starts with the fundamentals of who he is designing for and why.

"Those stakeholders - the client, the users, the environment for which we’re designing – give us nearly all we need to know in terms of where we will take a given project. When we feel that we have a thorough understanding of this, we delve into materials, processes and form, and we begin to give shape to an idea. In my studio, design is simply a series of decisions that ultimately lead us to answer a brief accurately and beautifully through our own interpretation."

Ascalon is known for his distinctive reductive style and a passion for traditional materials. The Preludia Series has an acute focus on organic expression. Development of the range began with the production of the all-wood Preludia Chair.

Featuring a 3D veneer seat and a solid wood base, the sculptural design was inspired by the work of the greatest masters of Danish design, such as Hans J. Wegner, and their approach to craftsmanship. The choice of 3D veneer for the Preludia Chair shell allowed the seat to be generously bent in multiple directions simultaneously: a challenging yet rewarding process that resulted in strong, comfortable seats that, crucially, still have a sense of poetic, crafted elegance.   

So how does Ascalon, who favors uncomplicated, rational design solutions, hold on to the poetry and expressiveness of furniture design?   

"I feel that the expressiveness is often born out of rationality. It is achieved not despite it being uncomplicated, but for that very reason..

Simplicity done well is the hardest thing to achieve in design, and I think that many human beings are attuned to its subtleties and nuance on an intrinsic level."

His conviction and knowledge of the balance between rationality and poetry might have stemmed from his passion for music, and he sees many parallel between music composition and furniture design.   

"Creative fields have almost everything in common. We simply experience the output through our different senses." He explains, "In music, there are instruments that you must manipulate. In painting, it’s the paint. In cooking, the ingredients, and in design, the materials. Add to that for example, volume and tempo, the color and weight of a brush stroke, temperatures and techniques, or in design, form and production methods, etc. There is an end result that we are after - a  solution we strive for. After we’ve thoroughly explored and manipulated all of the tools in our respective toolbox, the hope is that we find a perfect balance of them all."

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