Omer Arbel

written by:
March 31, 2010

Omer Arbel is a Vancouver–based architect and designer who creates spaces and objects in equal measure. Most recently he designed both the the medals for the 2010 Winter Olympics and and the interior of Ping's Cafe, a Japanese restaurant in Vancouver. He's also the Creative Director of the furniture/lighting manufacturing house Bocci. Omer answered some questions about his Olympics design, his design process, and why he catalogs his projects with a series of numbers rather than with names.
 

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  Arbel: Our winning design proposal for the 2010 Olympic Medals began with an iconographic jewelry archetype, the locket. In this first iteration of the design, the medal was comprised of two halves which housed an internal cavity into which the athlete could insert a sentimental object such as a photograph or lucky charm.  We developed a manufacturing technique so that each medal had a cavity of differing shape and proportion, so that every single medal was completely unique. Photograph by Robert Keziere.
    Arbel: Our winning design proposal for the 2010 Olympic Medals began with an iconographic jewelry archetype, the locket. In this first iteration of the design, the medal was comprised of two halves which housed an internal cavity into which the athlete could insert a sentimental object such as a photograph or lucky charm.  We developed a manufacturing technique so that each medal had a cavity of differing shape and proportion, so that every single medal was completely unique. Photograph by Robert Keziere.
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  Arbel: Due to manufacturing constraints, conservatism, and budget concerns, the design was addressed and re-purposed several times. The final production version has an undulating surface that evokes Vancouver’s landscape.  Individual medals were laser etched with a unique ‘crop’ of Corrine Hunt’s master artwork so that each remains a unique piece of a larger composition.
    Arbel: Due to manufacturing constraints, conservatism, and budget concerns, the design was addressed and re-purposed several times. The final production version has an undulating surface that evokes Vancouver’s landscape.  Individual medals were laser etched with a unique ‘crop’ of Corrine Hunt’s master artwork so that each remains a unique piece of a larger composition.
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  Arbel: The 28 series is the result of a glass-blowing technique I developed whereby air is intermittently blown in and then sucked out of an intermittently heated and then cooled glass matrix. This technique produces a distorted spherical shape with a composed collection of inner shapes, one of which houses a low voltage lamp.
    Arbel: The 28 series is the result of a glass-blowing technique I developed whereby air is intermittently blown in and then sucked out of an intermittently heated and then cooled glass matrix. This technique produces a distorted spherical shape with a composed collection of inner shapes, one of which houses a low voltage lamp.
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  Arbel: 28 pendants are designed to cluster in hexagonal shapes that nestle into each other to create patterns as dictated by the needs of the interior. They may also be clustered or composed in an ambient manner similar to their distant cousin, the 14 series.
    Arbel: 28 pendants are designed to cluster in hexagonal shapes that nestle into each other to create patterns as dictated by the needs of the interior. They may also be clustered or composed in an ambient manner similar to their distant cousin, the 14 series.
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  Arbel: Conventional upholstery is based on a simple principle—foam is encased in fabric to provide comfort. For the 25.0 bench, we eliminated foam from the equation and compensated by providing a vast excess of fabric which is allowed to fold and pleat haphazardly to create a comfortable seat and back.  The randomly folded pleats shift as they conform to the human body to create interesting organic patterns over time. Photograph by Robert Kenziere.
    Arbel: Conventional upholstery is based on a simple principle—foam is encased in fabric to provide comfort. For the 25.0 bench, we eliminated foam from the equation and compensated by providing a vast excess of fabric which is allowed to fold and pleat haphazardly to create a comfortable seat and back.  The randomly folded pleats shift as they conform to the human body to create interesting organic patterns over time. Photograph by Robert Kenziere.
  • 
  Arbel: The 22 is a complete suite of electrical wall accessories which challenge the traditional, tired and ubiquitous cover plate concept.  We designed a system whereby switches and power receptacles can finally be flush with the surface of the wall and, therefore, more visually subtle than ever before. Photograph by Cory Dawson.
    Arbel: The 22 is a complete suite of electrical wall accessories which challenge the traditional, tired and ubiquitous cover plate concept.  We designed a system whereby switches and power receptacles can finally be flush with the surface of the wall and, therefore, more visually subtle than ever before. Photograph by Cory Dawson.
  • 
  Arbel: The 21 was inspired by the sporadic and often discordant arrangements that barnacles form on a rock surface.  Each pendant is made of thin sheets of raw white porcelain wrapped around frosted blown borosilicate glass cones of varying sizes. The result is a gentle contrast between diffused light passing through the translucent white porcelain skin and sharp, crisp light passing through the frosted Borosilicate glass trumpet shape on the interior of the pendant. Traditionally, porcelain is cast or sculpted into very specific forms. Our goal for the 21 Series was to design a process which yields different forms in every iteration. We let the material bend and fold according to its own intrinsic logic so every piece is completely unique. Photograph by Michael Boland.
    Arbel: The 21 was inspired by the sporadic and often discordant arrangements that barnacles form on a rock surface.  Each pendant is made of thin sheets of raw white porcelain wrapped around frosted blown borosilicate glass cones of varying sizes. The result is a gentle contrast between diffused light passing through the translucent white porcelain skin and sharp, crisp light passing through the frosted Borosilicate glass trumpet shape on the interior of the pendant. Traditionally, porcelain is cast or sculpted into very specific forms. Our goal for the 21 Series was to design a process which yields different forms in every iteration. We let the material bend and fold according to its own intrinsic logic so every piece is completely unique. Photograph by Michael Boland.
  • 
  The 14 Series pendants are a family of low voltage lighting products designed for the Vancouver-based manufacturer Bocci. The pendants are articulated, seamed cast glass spheres with frosted cylindrical voids, into which a halogen light fixture is inserted. Unlike most contemporary lighting, the pendants are designed to be clustered in groups – suggesting tiny candles encased in floating spheres of water. The light interacts with the bubbles and imperfections of the cast glass to produce a rich halo of light. Photograph by Michael Boland.
    The 14 Series pendants are a family of low voltage lighting products designed for the Vancouver-based manufacturer Bocci. The pendants are articulated, seamed cast glass spheres with frosted cylindrical voids, into which a halogen light fixture is inserted. Unlike most contemporary lighting, the pendants are designed to be clustered in groups – suggesting tiny candles encased in floating spheres of water. The light interacts with the bubbles and imperfections of the cast glass to produce a rich halo of light. Photograph by Michael Boland.
  • 
  Arbel: The 8.0 is the first in a collection of outdoor furniture developed in collaboration with the concrete manufacturer Lafarge. This chair is fabricated using the new, ultra strong concrete product, Ductal, which has only been used previously in infrastructural applications. The design emphasizes the material’s tremendous strength and achieves an extremely thin profile with a shocking cantilever for the seat of the chair. Photograph by Shannon Loewen.
    Arbel: The 8.0 is the first in a collection of outdoor furniture developed in collaboration with the concrete manufacturer Lafarge. This chair is fabricated using the new, ultra strong concrete product, Ductal, which has only been used previously in infrastructural applications. The design emphasizes the material’s tremendous strength and achieves an extremely thin profile with a shocking cantilever for the seat of the chair. Photograph by Shannon Loewen.

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