Ones to Watch: Four O Nine
Andrei Zerebecky and Lukasz Kos cofounded Four O Nine in 2011, naming the firm after the address of a house they shared in Toronto. Graduates of the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, they initially found jobs at the offices of Frank Gehry and Bruce Mau.
Now, from a studio in Shanghai, the pair is bringing their experience in architecture and urbanism to furnishings, carrying on the legacy of designers like Meis van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright who designed projects down to the final detail, including bespoke furniture and rugs. This year, Nienkämper will release Four O Nine’s Pleat Series furniture collection in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and across the Asian market. The firm’s first rug collection, Urban Fabric, incorporates patterns based on aerial views of cities.
“Upon exploring the various places we wanted to depict in our first collection, it was evident that each city had its own unique organizational structure, like a fingerprint,” says Kos. The color palette of each rug relates to the place itself. For example, the bronze and gold colors the Forbidden City rug reference the architecture of Beijing’s Imperial Palace and its golden glazed terracotta rooftops. (The Royal Ontario Museum has shown interest in commissioning a custom Forbidden City rug for an exhibition in 2014.) A newly released Paris rug is based on Napoleon’s commission of broad new boulevards in the 18th century; the eleven-sided carpet is cut to follow the lines of the city’s historic transformation.
The designers are willing to customize their concepts for clients who have other cities or geographies in mind. “We’d like to expand on the rural and infrastructural themes of our collection,” says Kos. They are developing a rug depicting Holland’s rural landscape, as well as a series of limited-edition pieces derived from scenes of infrastructure in Japan; other nonphysical markings like time zones are also becoming a source of inspiration.
Rugs in the current collection are made by hand-tufting and shearing 100 percent New Zealand virgin wool into multiple pile heights, but Zerebecky and Kos are also exploring hand-knotting techniques, which allow a finer level of detail. But being architects, the pair does not plan to stop at rug design as it explores new ideas for residential surfaces. “Working with new materials is always engaging for us because we see it as an opportunity to explore the potentials and limitations of each medium,” says Kos. A new project with a major hotel chain to design bespoke furniture will include tiles incorporated into tabletops. It is the firm’s first foray into ceramics, but not likely its last.