For his graduation thesis at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, in Jerusalem, furniture designer Michael Tsinzovsky tried to capture the soul of Israeli design — not an insignificant challenge. “A discussion of design in a cultural context must always begin with some knowledge of the culture being discussed,” Tsinzovsky says. “In the case of Israeli culture this task seems especially complex and hazardous.” That’s a mammoth understatement.
More to the point: Israel is a young country on very old soil. It’s also a cultural and political outsider in the heart of the Arab world. To talk about design in Israel is to talk about a motley crew of aesthetics, one that draws on everything from German woodworking to Islamic art to high-tech manufacturing — all of which Tsinzovsky managed to incorporate into a lovely mosaic of furniture prototypes in which East meets West and old meets new.
Israel is a cultural outsider in the heart of the Arab world.
The collection includes side tables, a coffee table, and a chair beautifully done up to resemble Arabic rugs and Arabesques. For materials, Tsinzovsky chose metal, as a nod to locally available resources, and wood, to acknowledge the traditional German carpentry techniques immigrants brought to Israel after World War II. Then he built the pieces using contemporary production methods. One side table is made by pressure-molding galvanized steel, another by CNC milling African walnut, and still another by laser-cutting wood veneer.
The best implications of Tsinzovsky’s concept are evidenced by Coexistence, the birch-legged metal table and chair in slide #5 above. Here, the Arabesques aren’t just ornamental motifs, they’re part and parcel to the construction of the furniture, making it “stronger and… possible to work with lighter and thinner materials,” Tsinzovsky says. The suggestion is that Israel’s protean cultural identity isn’t just grounds for making pretty design — it’s something that can improve the functional aspects of design itself. We smell a metaphor!
[Images courtesy of Michael Tsinzovsky]