I wanted to make a table. To see if I could make a table, using standard dimensioned wood bought from a local supplier, simple hand tools and my amateur carpentry skills.
I was inspired by finding in an online archive, a pirated digital scan of a much photocopied publication, it was Enzo Mari's proposta per un’autoprogettazione 'A project for making easy-to-assemble furniture using rough boards and nails'.
The publication was compiled by the Duchamp Centre to accompany an exhibition of the furniture at Galleria Milano, Milan in 1974.
The catalogue depicts a range of basic furniture Mari thought everyone would need, things like tables, chairs, beds, wardrobes and shelving. Each piece of furniture is represented by a technical drawing - comprising plan, end and side elevation and an exploded view - to aid assembly, a cutting log - which is a list of all the cut-components needed to produce that thing - and a photograph of the assembled artefact.
The catalogue also contains the invitation to make and or adapt the furniture and send photographs of the adaptations to Mari’s studio address in Milan. Commercial production was discouraged. Prohibited even.
For almost forty years, Mari’s utopian utoprogettazione project has been quietly rippling out through, and transforming the world.
The furniture is rough, simple, even awkward, although there’s a real beauty in the engineered simplicity of the objects. And in the intention that they could be made by anyone, anyone with a hammer, saw and nails and sufficient capital to purchase the timber.
At Easter, browsing through the catalogue, I liked the look of the triangular legged plank version, so I copied the cutting log dimensions and calculated that I would need twelve 250cm x 10cm x 2.5cm planks. I went to a local timber supplier and selected rough sawn slow growing resinous Galician pine, full of knots, slightly thicker than Mari dimensioned but the closest there was.
I bought the straightest planks I could find and set about making a table. I hacked the design slightly - cutting fancy angles for the cross rails and leg supports - but my hat is still well and truly tipped; the engineering -counter braced triangles- is brilliant.
The table is rigid, sturdy and beautiful, if ever there's an earthquake I'll be under it, and, I only used hand tools.
Here's a photocopy of the autoprogettazione [self-made or self-design] booklet, with assembly instructions for all the furniture in the series.