Somerville-based architect Mike Pond creates unexpected furniture designs under the name Solid & Void. The pieces, which include tables and countertops, are fashioned with organic materials like wood and glass, inspired by the harmony between elements in nature. Pond’s main material for these designs, however, is concrete. As contradictory as it may seem, concrete is in line with his main principles of design: “let it fit, be honest and make it cool.”
“I initially became attached to the idea of concrete because of its dichotomy,” explains Pond. “There are two aspects to it and they don’t necessarily correlate. We have this idea of strength, but concrete can also assume any shape, and contains this idea of fluidity. I try to express that idea in the designs.”
Each of his works is made with these factors in mind. One all-concrete design, a round dining table, was inspired by the yogi concept of “strength through form.” The table’s wide cylindrical base is the core of strength, and allows the thin disk of a tabletop to remain sturdy.
A recent project, the Stasis Coffee Table, won a 2015-16 A’Design Award. The table is composed of a pane of rectangular glass atop two twisted beams of concrete resembling taffy that has been pulled, molded and hardened. The concrete base is asymmetrical and perfectly balanced only when the heavy pane of tempered glass is placed on top. One edge of the concrete base has Pond’s signature raw edge.
This raw edge, a distinct element of most Solid & Void designs, can be noticed as a hole cut out from the middle, or a periphery that looks like it has been hit with a wrecking ball. Always, this roughness is juxtaposed with an opposite texture. In one two-tiered countertop, the concrete, with a jagged finish like the center of a cut-open quartz, is topped with a pane of glass, and two beams of Wenge (an African hardwood) slicing through the vertical concrete slab, suggesting the harmony and balanced interplay of the three materials.
Pond’s affinity for this raw-edge technique stems from his desire to create individual mystique around each piece. He quite literally splits the concrete open to reveal its unique nature. “Concrete is poured out of a mold and is able to be duplicated. The raw edge is not unlike the grain patterns in wood. No matter how much you can control the concrete in the form, there is no way you can communicate every pebble in the concrete.” The technique for creating this raw edge takes a great deal of skill and practice, and Pond keeps the details of his practice a mystery to those outside his design firm. “The minute you see behind the veil, it loses some of the impact. When it’s something so simple, to give away the secret diminishes the quality of the piece itself.”
Pond’s ability to transform pieces of seemingly dull and utilitarian concrete into gentle, natural designs allows an otherwise cold material to fit within the warmth of a home. Each design is visually simple but, as Pond notes, “because it is much more difficult to build simply, every detail becomes critical.”
Solid & Void’s mantra includes the phrase “be honest,” and for Pond that means having integrity in his work. “I’m building a door right now. It’s maple and has intricate pieces. There are parts of the door that I could have used poplar for. It’s a cheaper hardwood, but it wouldn’t have been honest. If I’m communicating that this is maple, it has to be all maple. I’ll do an entire building of poplar, I have nothing against it, but it’s about what your intentions are.”
Intention is what drives the process of design into reality at Solid & Void. It can be difficult to bring a design to life without making compromises in the process, to make the job less difficult. That’s not what Pond believes in. His technique is constantly evolving, and his knowledge of building comes into play just as much as his skills in design and architecture. “The majority of my time is spent in the field. Maybe 10 percent is spent designing.” To Pond, technique and taste are always evolving. “It’s a continual journey.”
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