How Barber and Osgerby made their Loop Table

Brutalist architecture, a boat and an expert plywood bender all fed into the pair's breakthrough design
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The Loop Table, 1996 by Barber and Osgerby for Isokon Plus
The Loop Table, 1996 by Barber and Osgerby for Isokon Plus

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have attained international success in the field of industrial design. The piece that secured their breakthrough, however, was an inauspicious 1996 commission – from a South Kensington restaurant to design a table to store ashtrays and magazines in the lobby. Their response was the Loop Table. 

 

Development sketches of Loop Table, ink on tracing paper, 1996
Development sketches of Loop Table, ink on tracing paper, 1996

As we explain in our new book Barber Osgerby Projects, the initial white-card design was inspired by London's infamous Trellick Tower, in which the pair had lived as students. They had been impressed by the Brutalist building's realisation of the maxim that “design is about the appropriation of space”. 

 

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in the studio with early plywood prototypes from Isokon, Flat 167, Trellick Tower, London, 1998
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in the studio with early plywood prototypes from Isokon, Flat 167, Trellick Tower, London, 1998
 

Plywood was their choice of material, for its beauty and flexibility. Barber recalled a dinghy made of ply he had sailed as a child.  However, the design's simplicity was almost its undoing -  it proved impossible to create the loop structure of the table from a single piece;  they acquired the assistance of Chris McCourt, expert plywood-furniture maker, who was able find a way of seamlessly binding two separate pieces of wood to make the table.

 

A more detailed view of The Loop Table, 1996 by Barber and Osgerby for Isokon Plus
A more detailed view of The Loop Table, 1996 by Barber and Osgerby for Isokon Plus

The piece was an immediate success, following its exhibition at London's Design Fair in 1997. Ashtrays are no longer allowed in restaurants but the Loop Table has transcended its original function to become a modern classic.

 

Barber Osgerby Projects

For more on these influential designers order a copy of Barber Osgerby Projects here.

 


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