IN: Inspiration

Chubby Concrete In Design

Italian designer Alessandro di Prisco gives Brutalism a softer touch in his new furniture design, Babol.


The word ‘concrete’ is unlikely to evoke feelings of comfort – with good reason: in the US, more than 55 000 miles of highway are concrete, and the city is commonly labelled ‘the concrete jungle’. Strength and durability are among the reasons many builders use concrete and the material has found applications in everything from sidewalks to sewers, buildings to overpasses.

Innovations are not uncommon, however: design company Ivanka makes bags and clutches out of concrete; Suzaan Heyns designs fashion products that take inspiration from concrete in its various forms.

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Italian designer Alessandro di Prisco builds on a growing interest in ‘chubby design’ with his new furniture design Babol. Babol is conceived as a modular system and consists of a series of concrete chairs; facing each other across the seat are two knobs that protrude from diagonally opposite corners.

Di Prisco designed Babol for Italian furniture company MACEVI. Curbed writer Liz Stinson sums up the bold contrast of design and building material as ‘soft Brutalism’ and while Brutalism grew from expressions in architecture Di Prisco – an architect – channels this movement with a slight twist.

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As a movement, Brutalism shows a concern with raw or unfinished concrete. Functionalist principles are foregrounded: structures tend to be stark and unpolished and according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, show a disdain for elegance in favour of “austere rectilinearity”.

Babol retains some elements of Brutalism, including rawness and functionality, but crosses into chubby design territory by replacing austerity with a kind of relatable elegance.

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According to The Strategist’s Lauren Levy, chubby design shows childlike, juvenile traits and mirrors the “proportions of a baby”; young people especially are attracted to chubby design, suggests Justin Donnelly (from design studio Jumbo, which creates chubby pieces): “There is anxiety about what the future holds, so having this cute, adorable anthropomorphic furniture in our homes gives us a sense of comfort. In times of economic and political turmoil, people turn to cute.”

Not only does Babol reveal Brutalism in furniture; Di Prisco redefines concrete with a chubby design that – like Ivanka’s and Suzaan Heyns’s products – further highlights its versatility.

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