Hands On: Sixteen Prototypes

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By Per Olaf Fjeld and Emily Randall Fjeld with afterword by Juhania Pallasmaa

Armed with a meager set of hand tools and locally available pine, Per Olaf Fjeld and Emily Randall Fjeld set out to carve a tranquil niche for themselves. What they sought was respite from their architecture practice in Oslo, Norway. What they found was that a small basement workshop would lead them to deeper understandings of the relationship between economy, time, and materials, as well as greater insight into their own Nordic design heritage.

Over the course of years in their free time, Per Olaf and Emily constructed a collection of 16 unique pieces of furniture for their modest country home -- what began as a "rundown wooden house" inherited from Per Olaf's great grandfather. What they learned in the process filtered back into their design work as well as their theoretical and written work.

Diminutive by design, the Fjelds' book Hands On: Sixteen Prototypes, is a gem of a pictorial that showcases their hand-hewn collection.

"Instead of being generated from ergonomic ideas, the pieces extend the tectonic, structural, and geometric logic of architecture into the intimate scale of household objects," writes Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa in the book's afterword. "Although the pieces possess artistic originality and identity of their own, they seek a dialogue with designs by others. The geometric character brings to mind Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural furniture, whereas the uncompromised rectangularity makes one think of Gerrit Thomas Rietveld's neoplasticist furniture."

The book charms with the humble tranquility of its images while engaging the reader's intellect and curiosity.

About the Authors
Per Olaf Fjeld earned his master's degree under Louis I. Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. He later returned to the University of Pennsylvania to do research under a Fulbright-Hays grant. Today, he is a professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. He has taught and served on juries throughout Europe and has been a guest professor at Cornell University and the University of Arizona. Over the years he has written extensively about architect Sverre Fehn.

Emily Randall Fjeld studied at the Philadelphia College of Art. Since 1975, the Fjelds have run a small architectural studio in Oslo.

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