Thomas Musca, the founder of Cassius Castings, has a fascination with concrete. In 2019, the Cornell architecture grad began experimenting with glass fiber–reinforced concrete furnishings inspired by John Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein residence and 20th-century Soviet brutalism, both quintessential examples of "concrete forms highlighted by poetic vacancies," Musca says.
His hobby snowballed into a Santa Monica, California, business of made-to-order furnishings and custom site-based projects that push concrete’s possibilities. "As long as you can envision a negative space that is structurally sound, you can create it," he says about the material’s plasticity. "Concrete isn’t oppressive. It creates spatial light qualities that help you appreciate the environment around you."
Part of Musca’s concrete evangelizing involves "pour parties," where he invites friends and prospective clients to mix and pour the substance into a mold and then watch as furniture materializes before their eyes.
Read the full Q&A below to learn more about Musca.
Hometown: Santa Monica, California
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I design and make concrete furniture. The goal is to create pieces that turn an inherently clunky substance into something sleek.
What's the last thing you designed? Cassius Castings' latest project is a triple-cast, 21-foot-long, continuous cantilevering concrete bench with integrated tables and armrests. It's an 850-pound custom behemoth for a client's backyard.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? I put on music, sit at the kitchen banquette, and sketch on leftover pieces of wood from previous builds, while consuming multiple espressos.
How do you procrastinate? If I want to procrastinate big-time, I walk the entire length of L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard. It's 16 miles of divergent neighborhoods and architectural styles. I take a friend and make a day of it. A meal in K-Town is mandatory.
What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? The glue gun. Much of my day is spent building molds and coaxing adhesives to cooperate. You have no idea how many times I've gotten burned. I would come up with a version that protects unsuspecting fingers.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? John Lautner, Jonas Salk, and Nina Simone.
What skill would you most like to learn? Back when Cannondale made their racing bicycle frames in the U.S., the fit and finish of the aluminum welds was spectacular. I’d love to be able to TIG-weld alloys that well.
What is your most treasured possession? My recently acquired pickup truck. Gone are the days of onlookers gawking in hardware store parking lots as I frantically cram plywood into the back of a VW Beetle.
What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? My parents had a George Nelson Marshmallow Sofa in the kitchen when my brother and I were toddlers. Its midcentury modular circles were fun to sit on and the ample negative space meant that all the food we spilled fell right through to the floor for easy cleanup. The built world could be playful, useful, and cool.
What contemporary design trend do you despise? Anonymity. With very few exceptions, major structures are now designed by risk averse teams catering to developers. Architects have ceded far too much ground. This results in nondescript buildings and spaces, utterly devoid of character. Another pet peeve: fake materiality. Ugh.
Finish this statement: All design should... strive.
What's in your dream house? A 300SL in the garage and a Basquiat in the living room of a Case Study House.
How do you want design to be different after we emerge from the pandemic? By becoming more event based and interactive. People care about something when they witness or participate in its creation.
How can the design world be more inclusive? By paying interns.
What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? The onus isn’t on the public to understand the industry. It’s on designers to create work that serves human intuition and excites people.
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