Design Duos / Voukenas Petrides
Experimentation, ambition and poetic aesthetics – a winning combination from the Athens-based designers.
IN 2014, GREEK designer Andreas Voukenas met American architect Steven Petrides. Since then the creative design duo has joined forces to produce poetic furniture for both domestic and office spaces. Together they have made a wholly idiosyncratic series of stools, side tables and chairs, as well as designing entire installations.
Each furniture piece is hand fabricated and finished in their Athens workshop. Their designs – organic, perennial, increasingly ambitious in both scale and formal invention – reflect Steven’s interest in structure, materiality, light and space. And while their design objects are functional, they too play tantalisingly with the laws of gravity, balance and the cantilever. The lively surfaces engage the sense of touch through the eye – whether made of their trademark gypsum plaster, polished to a marble-like finish, or cast in red bronze.
In advance of their latest solo show at Gallery FUMI, ‘Haptic Nature’ (17th September – 22nd October), The Design Edit talked to the duo about their lives and work.
The Design Edit: How did you meet?
Voukenas Petrides: We met in 2014 and started working informally together on furnishings for our home and for Andreas’s hospitality business (The Marble Suites, PLAKA). We made plywood chairs and a walk-in closet building that sits in the middle of our open plan office space/home in downtown Athens. Then, for the apartment/hotel we started making barstools and furniture. In 2017, we formally started our design partnership.
The Design Edit: What drew you to work together?
Voukenas Petrides: We have complementary skills. Andreas is an electrician, carpenter and welder. He can fix anything. Steve is the architect, art historian, painter and draftsman. For instance, we made a series of sheet metal chairs that combined Steve’s knowledge of form and function with Andreas’s fabrication experience.
The Design Edit: How has your combined creative output developed/evolved?
Voukenas Petrides: From our early plywood stools and chairs, to our current collection of plaster and bronze tables, chairs and light sculptures, we have developed a common interest in proportion, balance, natural materials and architectural space. At first, we were making plywood stools and chairs for our home and now we are making a series of bronze chairs exclusively for Gallery FUMI. These chairs have found their way into the homes of fashion designers and Chanel boutiques in Miami and Paris through the patronage of Peter Marino Architects.
We love experimenting with new materials, such as making a table and bench constructed from bookmatched logs of Greek olive wood for Gallery FUMI’s ‘The Beautiful Grain’ wood exhibition during the pandemic. We collaborated with designer Lukas Wegwerth on a console constructed in the form of a solid oak tube (with architectural space) that Lukas clad in repurposed cedar shingles from his 17th century barn.
In 2021 we made a 23-metre-long bar for the Delta Restaurant inside the Greek National Opera House at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (designed by Renzo Piano Building workshop) in Athens. We collaborated with Stelios Kois of Kois Associated architects and produced a flowing curvaceous cast bronze bar where opera audiences and the public can enjoy a cocktail with a view of the Aegean Sea.
We are currently completing new works for our first solo exhibition at Gallery FUMI opening on 17th September. The exhibition includes new light sculptures shaped like tree trunks and anthropomorphic totems, a bench, table, mirror, chairs and small sculptures in polished bronze and textured cast aluminium.
The Design Edit: How do you work creatively? Do you split the work, do your skills overlap and complement – or are you polar opposites?
Voukenas Petrides: We start with Steve’s sketches or Andreas’s models and explore ideas individually. Steve prefers to work alone with plaster and then request a critique from Andreas (a process reminiscent of Steve’s MARCH training at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation ). In 2019, we challenged ourselves to design, fabricate and exhibit new works all within one month in the USA (Steve’s birthplace). With only open minds and lots of courage, we went to Hudson NY, made new friends, found materials, rented a temporary workshop and got to work.
After a couple of Upstate NY architectural tours (the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica), Andreas made a welded wire mesh series that included a table, chair and console with a precise modular sewing technique along with Steve’s plaster works that were exhibited at Andy Goldsborough’s Gilded Owl Gallery in Hudson NY. After completing the console, Steve suggested photographing it in the cold, crisp winter morning sunshine, which cast stunning shadows of Andreas’s construction. Hudson contractor, Peggy Anderson became a fan of our work and acquired that console.
The Design Edit: How do you deal with tension and friction, pulls in different directions?
Voukenas Petrides: Our design partnership is based on creative autonomy in order to develop our own ideas independently but with the help and nurturing of the other. The first plaster gypsum series was developed by Steve while Andreas was expanding his hospitality business. This use of plaster initially shocked Andreas but he started to see their appeal as handmade stools and chairs with a human-like form that reminded him of our mortal existence.
The Design Edit: What have you been doing this summer?
Voukenas Petrides: We’ve been completing a cast aluminum coffee table and mirror at our foundry north of Athens in preparation for our exhibition at Gallery FUMI in September. On top of that, we’re also designing a new workshop. Aside from work and trying to stay cool in the Athenian heat, we’re enjoying the sunsets from our downtown Athens apartment.
However, we’re excited to travel to London to present our new works in person and we are planning a new project for the fall. Stay tuned!
‘Haptic Nature’ at Gallery FUMI runs from 17th September – 22nd October 2022.