Cuatro Cuatros, or Four Fours, is a young design studio formed in 2010 by four industrial designers from Valencia, Spain. Cristina Ródenas Lechiguero, Marina Francés Sáez, Isabel Cortina Sáez and Adrián Martínez Almonacid were back at NUDE this year, as part of Valencia Disseny Week, with a collection based on angles. In fact, the studio's name is taken from a mathematical puzzle. "The goal is to find every whole number from 0 to some maximum, using only common mathematical symbols and four fours" (The Man Who Calculated by Malba Tahan). Above, Cuatro Cuatros brings the studio logo to life. But are they simulating chairs or upside-down 4s?
Last year the collection of lighting and furniture that you launched at NUDE was based on Signs: the pound key, the asterisk, the square bracket, the exclamation mark and the percentage sign. This year, it is all Angles, from 0º to 180º. Do you decide on the theme first and then design, or do the designs inform the theme?
The first thing we decided this year was what was going to be the theme of the collection: we decided to study the visual effects and its application to furniture.
We thought it was one of the less explored fields in design and we wanted to experience it. We also wanted the products to be inspired by visual effects without loosing simplicity and functionality. The name of the collection and of the products was decided at the end, once we noticed how important viewing the angles was in our products. We like making collections and products that tell a story.
The lines that make up the pattern of the 0º rug apear crooked or wavy, but are really parallel. The pattern is an interpretation of the Zöllner effect of 1860. The rug's texture adds to the imperfection, perceived or otherwise.
Ángulos is a series of four designs that present optical illusion. How difficult is it to incorporate such illusions into functional storage and accessories?
All products had to undergo a simplification process. This is what we think was the most difficult aspect in creating this collection, we kept looking for visual strength and functionality but we didn't want a straight application of the visual effects. In the case of the shelves, we reduced the number of different parts as much as we could to avoid the use of ironwork. The choice of materials was also very important for the simplification.
The 30º shelving, where we wonder if A is longer than B, à la Sander's parallelogram.
Do everyone's eyes play the same tricks?
Yes, from the proper perspective, we all get the same altered perception of the object. When the optical effect is created, our perception forces us to see things as they aren't. This is because we perceive what we see by comparison with surrounding objects. Besides, knowing previously the effect doesn't cancel the effect when you see it.
A and B are the modular inserts of the same length, but with different purposes. One holds books in place, the other divides the shelf.
Even your name refers to a mathematical puzzle. How did you come to be so influenced by numbers and systems?
The influence started when we decided the name of the Studio. We don't have a special interest in mathematics, but little by little we were inspired by the curiosities behind them. All this served as a guiding thread for collections we have created so far, and it also helps us to start new projects.
The 90º vase is not an impossible triangle. Based on the Penrose triangle experiment, the point of view will determine whether the vase looks like a closed triangle.
The biggest influence we have at the moment we start designing products is the direct interpretation of the mathematical game that gives us our name and that now is our philosophy "we can form any product using only a pair of materials, connected by joints without ironwork.
More Zöllner effect with this 180º shelving system/room divider, where the horizontal lines are distorted by the squares.
What's next for Cuatro Cuatros? Will it involve more math?
We have not started working on the next collection, but it is probable that it will be related in mathematics, in a direct way or not so direct as this last year. We conserve the pursuit of simplicity to create attractive objects without resorting to a striking aesthetic. We will try to be consistent with what we've done so far.