This project includes an outdoor smoking deck, an enclosure, and custom “reverted” picnic tables at a Echo Park, Los Angeles nightclub. It is a surreal plane of black sparkling astro-turf enclosed by glossy transparent black chain-link fencing that is equal parts trailer-park trash and Gucci elegance. At center are four tables with a rough thick glossy surface. The tables hint at the memory of the iconic picnic table, but are proportioned low and turned outward to allow people to sit facing outward. In the vestigial tabletop there are sunken black-sand ashtrays. Where the old iconic picnic table supported inward focused “family time”- this design activates the social space around it.
With the tables I saw this as a chance to re-design this common object for its hidden functions. So instead of designing for a well-postured family having a communal meal, I turned down the edges of the top to support people facing outward in a casual slumped posture. This makes the table support fluid social activity around it instead of just reinforcing an inward social unit (family). I also built ashtrays into the top to support smoking. Smoking is a nomadic activity- you are always going away from things in order to smoke- here you are gathering around something. It instigates social theatre by creating crossing paths- people lean over others to use the ashtrays. It brings strangers into contact. And, I lowered the seat boards in relation to the top to invite people to step up and sit on the top. By inviting different body positions the object becomes more intimate and sculptural.
Other than that it is all “classic picnic table” style- the thick layered paint, the rough wood, the patina of abuse- good design does not have to be precious, it can be both elegantly conceived and rough at the same time.