Musical Chairs

Article excerpt

A mix-and-match man breaks items down, then builds them back up.

Plenty of designers work to the sound of hip-hop, but Martino Gamper may be the only one who follows its principles. He builds his works from fragments of other people's furniture "the way musicians would sample something," he says, Skyping from his studio in London. For his most famous project, called 100 Chairs in 100 Days and first shown in 2007, he amassed a vast store of used furniture. Then he broke those pieces down and assembled new chairs from their parts, allowing himself 24 hours to finish each work.

Gamper, who is 40, started life helping out on the family farm in Merano, Italy. He was apprenticed to a local cabinetmaker at age 14, eventually became a sculptor in Vienna, then a drafting-table slave in Milan, and finally graduated from the Royal College of Art in London. His eureka moment came in 2001, when he and a roommate, fellow designer Rainer Spehl, needed to furnish a flat: "We kept finding furniture on the street, and it seemed natural to make something out of it."

They were invited to participate in an outdoor fair organized by the great Victoria and Albert Museum for decorative arts and decided to follow up on their idea, producing hybrids on the spot from old tables and chairs. …