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A Crate Full

Not only used for transportation or storage, the humble crate can become mini-architecture housing a bath, bed or even a vacuum cleaner, as shown by Studio Makkink & Bey in their Crate Series. 

By Jeanne Tan / 11-11-2010

Give a child an empty box or crate and they can let their imaginations run wild and turn it into anything. Besides being a container to store away toys, a box can become a treasure chest, a cubby house, a row boat, car or a secret hiding spot among other things. 

Taking this reinterpretation and improvisation to another level Studio Makkink & Bey have transformed humble shipping crates into 'containers of living' in their Crate Series currently on show at Spring Projects in London who commissioned the series. Also on show is a new Blue Cabin and Work Light.

BathCrate, VanityCrate, BedCrate, VacuumCleanerCrate and ClockCrate. Each of the five crates has a specific purpose that corresponds to a domestic function; daily rituals of living are often used as a starting point for the duo's projects where ordinary objects are infused with new narratives and functions. From the exhibition description: "In its original guise as freight packaging, the crate protects its contents, but as furniture it also becomes a means of personal autonomy."

The description continues: "The Crate Series is an enquiry into the delineations in public and private time and space as well as the role of the objects we use within these spheres. Just as the function of a singular household appliance doesn’t mark or dominate a room with its purpose of existence, so the bed hidden inside the BedCrate does not denote the room as a bedroom nor the bath and basin to a bathroom."  

Crates can used as autonomous 'retreats' in themselves or be unfolded to create new space around it. This quality caught the attention of Rianne Makkink while on a visit to India, where she noticed that crates were being used to build temporary structures from roadside shops to workspaces. Used initially for transportation or storage for instance, the crates then become seats, display units, market stalls or work tables. Back in the Netherlands in the studio, the idea was experimented with to fashion more human-scaled work spaces - a crate cubicle - in the context of a large industrial warehouse.  

In this way, these crates create and become mini-architectures in themselves while keeping flexibility in the space in which it occupies. Despite the humble element of the crate for its construction, each unit caters to our love of creature comforts which makes users feel right at home. The two largest crates, Bath- and BedCrate, protect and shelter our bodies. A user can step in and out of the antique bath in the BathCrate (a window ledge provides an opening and ledge to place perhaps a book to read in the bath or a glass of wine) closing the door behind for privacy. When it's time for bed, BedCrate creates a safe haven in a world of plaid (referencing pajamas) reflected in the pattern of the wood, the carpet on the floor and linen and blankets on the bed. Internally, the 'walls' are lined with leather to create a feeling of tactility and warmth. Both crates are supported on that other ubiquitous wooden transportation element, the pallet. Intended for personal grooming, the VanityUnit transforms an antique dresser and mirror. It is a cross between a wash unit and a dressing table, with the whole crate surface flocked as if it were an enveloping luxurious towel. Is it a tea trolley or mobile cleaning unit? VacuumCleanerCrate is both. Playing with the balance between work and rest, this crate is wrapped in wood-coloured thread that only shows its gleam when viewed from a particular angle, and is equipped with both a vacuum cleaner and a silver tea set. Similarly the clock inside ClockCrate indicates whether it's time to work or unwind. Perhaps this could be an ideal solution for the mobile citizens of this world, where instead of always having to pack up all the belongings and furniture and move house, it will just be about moving crates.  

The Crate Series
5 November until 16 December 2010
Spring Projects, London

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