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Dualism: An investigation of Thai and Tasmanian environmental and cultural heritage through contemporary furniture

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Kongsuwan, C (2012) Dualism: An investigation of Thai and Tasmanian environmental and cultural heritage through contemporary furniture. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This project presents a novel consideration of two quite different cultural approaches to the challenges of design, heritage, materials, form and function. The resulting furniture objects demonstrate a model of 'dualism' that recognises distinct elements of Thai and Tasmanian culture, design and use of natural materials within a contemporary design aesthetic.Synthetic materials, imported know-how, imitative design and mechanised manufacture dominate Thailand’s contemporary commercial furniture industry. In contrast, contemporary Tasmanian furniture is distinguished by bespoke design and handcrafting with local materials and a strong sense of originality and authenticity. Through this project I have considered my own cross-cultural circumstances and Buddhist heritage as driving influences for designing and making furniture that incorporates representations of elements in Buddhist thought, Thai vernacular and aristocratic design and contemporary Western cultural practices within a broadly Modernist aesthetic. My studio-based research investigated the attributes of traditional Thai design,especially the floating, reflective and contrasting effects of architectural construction and ornamentation, and the dynamic expression of overlapping roof tiers, and sought to find ways of re-introducing these cultural characteristics through contemporary furniture. These influences have guided the choice of materials, technological application and an aspiration for local sustainability, durability, transportability and affordability. In undertaking the project, I have considered the contrasts between Western and Thai customs for utilising furniture, most notably the high-raised platform of Western furniture and the traditional mode of Oriental floor living. These apparent incompatibilities stimulated me to attempt to synchronise the pace of my own cultural and design heritage with native Tasmanian timbers, cross-cultural experience and progressive technologies. Following experiments and reflection, I have resolved a strategy to assimilate vernacular Thai content with pared down aesthetics, hands-on execution, mechanical production and Buddhist ‘dualism’. I extracted the trapezoidal connection between traditional Thai walls, cabinets and revealed joinery to evolve planar, linear and volumetric designs. The processes of realisation included sketched designs, computeraided design (CAD), computer modelling, miniature models, full-scale prototypes and final fabrication. The context of my research was informed by the works of architects, designers and sculptors who demonstrate methods of combining geometric abstractions and austere aesthetics, the interplay of opposites, and multi-cultural and spiritual influences. These practitioners include Modernists George Nakashima, Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi and contemporary architect I. M. Pei. I also looked into cantilever furniture, Kinetic Art and Op Art influences for spatial, dynamic and illusory connections. The results of the project comprise series of benches and demountable shelving units. All pieces embody Buddhist dualism – complementary opposites, immingled with cantilever structure, multiple functions, changing visual effects in plane and line and contemporary fabrication. Individually and collectively they are intended to elicit the sense of place and nostalgia associated with regional Tasmanian timber,characteristics of Thai architecture, ornamentation and floating volume of typical Thai boats providing a riparian connection between Hobart and Bangkok.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Copyright 2012 the Author
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2012 04:49
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2014 01:35
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/14696
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