All it takes to counteract the harshness of concrete is a little bit of biophilia. Equipped with integrated planter boxes, Brooklyn design studio Opiary’s Strata | Spolia blocks can be installed as wall tiles or assembled into freestanding partitions. The wallscape is offered in six finishes, including jet black and an earthy clay, and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Designed for communal environments like change rooms and offices, Alain van Havre’s Oak Stairs for Ethnicraft achieves serious fortitude with soft white oak. Continuing this balance of brawny and gentle, each of its angular doors is carved with a delicate handle that reveals itself only from the side.
Matter founder Jamie Gray’s Delphi 19 chandelier was inspired by Greek columns, but it also calls to mind projects like Madrid’s Torres Blancas and Chicago’s Marina City. Taking another cue from the world of heavy architecture, the light fixture’s fluted glass tubes hang from brass chains that would look right at home on a castle drawbridge.
One downside of concrete: the material isn’t the most green. Thankfully, designer Joost van Bleiswijk’s stark, blocky cabinet for Moooi delivers all the visual impact of brutalist construction with a fraction of the environmental footprint. Made from Richlite, an eco-friendly composite, the piece packs flat for shipping and easily slots together without any glue.
Standouts at NYCxDesign and ICFF included fresh takes on hulking concrete architecture, warmed up with natural materials or bold hits of greenery.