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Five minutes with Zev Bianchi

We take five minutes to chat with Director of Bcompact design, Zev Bianchi.

Five minutes with Zev Bianchi

Name: Zev Bianchi

Occupation: Industrial designer, furniture, lighting and products

Location: Darlinghurst, Sydney (ProtoHub studio)

Company: Bcompact design

Position: Director

The moment you knew you wanted to work in the design industry.

I had been living in Manhattan for about 2 years already, doing many and varied things to occupy myself and earn a living. One of which was working for a fashion show production company, RandM productions. Producing men’s and women’s, spring and fall fashion shows. I started in the company soon after the directors had formed it and we soon were able to move into an awesome 7500square foot loft space on Broadway at Canal Street. I was the official do everything and anything guy. My Huskie and I would race around New York picking up, delivering, all kinds of things. Me on my rollerblades (cool back then) and Mika pulling me around at hyper speeds and when she got tired, I’d sling her around my shoulders like a shoal and keep going.

One of my first commissions in the new office, apart from some major renovations, was to design and build all the office desks and other random furniture. I built seven really cool desks made from ‘Speed Rail’ joints, Aluminum pipes and marine ply tops. I was living in East Village at the time, on Crack Street, 13th between 1st and ‘A’. The apartment was small, to say the least; the shower stall was two thirds the size of a ‘PortAloo’, just not as well made, and in the kitchen. It was living there for over five years and it was being there that made me realise I had to make the most comfortable living environment out of what space I had. A loft bed with wardrobe and office below, handmade sofa beds all kinds of folding and changing devices to maximise dance floor space.

One day after becoming quite busy building peoples loft spaces, one of my best friends, Claes Applequist, the Swedish soon-to-be architect just said in his very suave, OTT, rolling Swedish accent. “Zev…why don’t you study design, it is in your genes…” It was right there and then, sometime in the mid-nineties that I decided to become a designer. I enrolled at Parsons School of design and the rest is history.

How did you come to be a designer? What first drew you to the practice?

Living it tight and expensive conditions, where space is at a premium and good design is essential to good living. I had the ideas and the hands-on skills (thanks to my father an engineer/mechanic) to create them… people see them and wanted them for themselves.

What interests you most about this particular field design?

I specialise in compact and sustainable design. It is because I see all the time that people are being squeezed out of their lives due to cost of space. Furniture and products that can help elevate this problem and make life more enjoyable and easier is always welcome.

Compact Stair by Zev Bianchi.

Compact Stair by Zev Bianchi. This product was recognised in the Good Design Awards.

What has your experience with education design been?

One of my projects for the past three years has been opening and running my design studio, ProtoHub in Darlinghurst. I started in 2011, to help young and emerging designers get help and mentorship in the design industry, by providing a studio and workshop space where they could prototype and produce their products for little to no money.

By providing tools and machines, assistance in design and a safe place to work. As the educational system doesn’t really allow for entry into the industry if you have no resources and you are not one of the lucky minority who land immediately in a design job straight out of school.

The most unusual/interesting thing about the way you work.

I have a thing about not wasting material; some might say it’s an obsession. I struggle to design anything that doesn’t use nearly all the material or be used in something else. I will spend literally hours upon hours getting it just so! For me I think it is really form follows function. I’m not sure if it always the best use of my time, I just can’t seem not to do it. Perfectionism or it’s just really expensive!

Which items in the workplace can you not live without?

My red 1936, Atlas metal lathe and my Bosch GEX 125 AC Orbital sander, both must have done a hundred million revolutions by now and with a bit of occasional TLC, they just keep on going. Oh, and of course my computer which therein lays my design Holy Grail, Solidworks.

What have been your favourite three products this year?

My new, single piece of material, flat folding, no joins, Kerf cut, Bamboo and leather armchair. My newly revisited, retractable, modular, Bcompact stairs.

Your top influences.

Sustainability and efficient living.

Favourite material.

Remanufactured Bamboo furniture board, in its many different incantations; is far and away my organic material of choice. With so many brilliant properties and sustainable aspects, it has steered me away from using any wood products for over seven years now.

I am so in love with the product in its natural and manmade states, that it is a lifetime goal of mine to start growing and producing it here in Australia for our market place to help reduce the use of plantation forestry and old growth forest alike and upturn the plywood industry.

Favourite international landmark/building.

Amos Eno’s, Flatiron building, 175 Fifth Ave. Manhattan. Turn of the century skyscraper that is so iconic and has so many wonderful memories attached to it for me in such an amazing place. A whimsical dream to one day own the top floor corner residence.

Biggest career moment.

Really hoping and working extremely hard towards that being in the very near future for me, at this years, highly coveted LaunchPad competition.

Concern for the design industry in the coming decade.

I feel we need to move away from wood products and the multitude of poor quality and horrible wood substitutes and turn the tide of thinking about it. Tree plantation forestry is not a sustainable answer, we need to look at supporting other industries that will replace it and in many ways make it better for all.

Another issue is creating new fields of work for people to do in the future, for with new technologies in manufacturing there are going to be so many industries that no longer need human intervention.

Dream person to collaborate with.

That is a difficult one as most of them are no longer with us. People like Alvar Alto, Raymond Loewy, Marcel Breuer and Peter Bianchi (Dad). All technical geniuses in their fields of design, architecture and engineering, it would be a dream come true to be able work with any or all again.

Otherwise, some of my current colleagues and friends, Asher Abergel and Shaun Dudley would be an honour to collaborate with something ground-breaking.


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