Manifold is a Brooklyn-based design studio run by Yihan Chen and Fengyi Zhu. Both trained artists and designers, Yihan and Fengyi’s work under Manifold focuses on creating sculptural objects and furniture that contends with structure and connectivity.
The name “Manifold” is derived from the way a pipe branches into several openings in an engine compartment. Such a serpentine shaped form has become an essential inspiration to most of their work as it displays a sense of softness through strength despite its physical properties.
“Ornament” is an attempt to put the ancient traditional Chinese practice of Fengshui into a contemporary context. Manifold started from the question of how Fengshui would be defined and described today, and what a physical execution of Fengshui would look like.
As a practice, Fengshui has changed and adapted for many hundreds of years, making an impression of relevance even today. Especially in the Western world in the 1970s, Fengshui was reduced to interior design. Originally, however, it was about the relationship between human and universe, and about bringing different energies into harmony.
What stands out in Manifold’s work is the choice of form and material, which also refer to the Fengshui practice. Wood is one of the five elements considered essential for human life in Fengshui. In addition, the round shape of “Ornament” is characteristic of Fengshui and is found in many symbols and instruments, such as the round shapes of astrolabes, called shi.
Using 3D technologies, a pattern is selected and blurred as a bump map texture, applied to the surface of a 3D object, and then used to CNC a solid piece of wood that forms the final product. In this piece, Manifold have reinterpreted a traditional Fengshui ornament pattern with contemporary fabrication techniques, and shown how ancient culture can be given relevance in a post-modern state.