Design Collaborative: A Natural Classic

Oct. 1, 2008

Todd Bracher's design of the T-No.1 table for Fritz Hansen respects the beauty and tradition of Danish design, making it an instant classic.

By Janet Wiens

A table is a table is a table. That is the simple view. However, a table is so much more. It's where we gather for family celebrations, herald a new ad concept or sign a pact advocating sustainability. Special events take place around a table, and that understanding was an integral part of the process behind bringing the new T-No.1 table by Fritz Hansen to market. Designed by Todd Bracher, this elegant product is sure to have a long and rich life.

According to Bjorn Stegger, Fritz Hansen's design director, the company recognized the need to provide an exclusive conference and meeting table that could also meet the needs of the residential market. "We revitalized our Oxford chair in 2003, which was very successful," he says. "We determined that we needed a new table with a minimal base to go with the chair, and we wanted an exclusive design for this effort."

Company officials conducted an extensive market analysis with their partners and designers around the world to test their idea. This research verified and validated that adding a new table was a good idea, and the search was on for a designer.

"We previously asked Todd Bracher to undertake a concept project for a new lounge table, and we were very pleased with his design aesthetic and understanding of our traditions," says Stegger. "Todd was one of three designers that we asked to compete for the opportunity to design our new table."

Bracher and the two other designers prepared and submitted their concepts to Fritz Hansen. The designs were then reviewed by Stegger and other company executives, as well as by Fritz Hansen's external design advisory board. Each design was carefully analyzed based on its conformity with the design brief; its respect for the Fritz Hansen image; whether it was right for the market; and if members of the board believed that it could stay in the collection for many years to come. While all designs were appropriate, Bracher's design was ultimately selected over the others.

Born in New York, Bracher's professional journey includes traveling to Copenhagen to study Danish design, which was followed by time in Paris, Milan and London before landing back in Brooklyn, where he established his practice. Individuals familiar with his work will easily understand the marriage between Bracher and Fritz Hansen.

"Todd's concept was very close to the table's final design," notes Stegger. "His design is classic and simple while providing the user with great flexibility through sizes, materials and the ability to extend the table endlessly."

The T-No.1 table can be ordered with a high-gloss burnished aluminum, black powder-lacquered aluminum or white powder-lacquered aluminum base. Table surfaces are available in seven options: white laminate, oak, maple, walnut, colored ash, glass, and unlacquered white glass. The table comes in three standard widths and three standard lengths, and can be customized to meet the needs of individual customers. For office use, the table can be accessorized with aluminum cable trays for power management.

For this concept, Bracher says that he constantly had the image of a fish skeleton in mind when designing the table. "A fish skeleton naturally addresses all of the fish's structural requirements," he says. "A table has the same basic requirements but in an obviously different way. There must be a surface for use, ribs to support the surface, a spine to support the ribs, and legs to bring the spine to the floor."

In what he terms a "natural solution," Bracher states that his goal was to create a piece that seemed to have always existed, and one that could not be mistaken for anything other than what it is.

The materials used to manufacture the table emphasize the "natural" approach envisioned by Bracher. "Material selection is integral to the design process," he says. "I concepted materials based on where I believed the table could be used, while also taking into account costs and Fritz Hansen's production techniques and manufacturing approach."

Above & Below: Customers can currently select from three different bases and seven tops. Other materials will become available as the series is expanded to meet market demand.

The T-No.1 table will fit comfortably in an executive office, ad agency, home office, or dining room. One element of design inspiration came from envisioning an executive driving to work in a luxury car where sophistication and elegance abound. The translation for the table plays out in a version with polished chrome legs and an oak surface to express the same qualities of luxury and strength. In contrast, the warm woods and soft finishes-perhaps in white-make the table a perfect fit for a family's dining room.

Like all of the company's products, Fritz Hansen will expand the T-No.1 series as the table becomes more established in the marketplace. Since its unveiling last December, the company has introduced a white lacquered base and a glass tabletop option. Within the next six months, L- and U-shaped configurations will be introduced to adapt the table to large meeting rooms. A new chair to accompany the table will also be introduced in the coming months.

A table may be a table to some, but thankfully, leaders in the design community such as Fritz Hansen and Todd Bracher are willing to make it so much more. The result is a commitment and an ability to produce classic and elegant products that help to create beautiful environments for all of us.

Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at [email protected].

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