We spotted Bentu Design at 100% Design in 2014 and we were immediately drawn to their stand and the fantastic lighting on display. Perhaps it was the use of concrete or perhaps the striking simplicity of their designs, most likely it was a combination of both. This combination resulted in contemporary concrete pendant lights that looked fantastic and which we knew would be a great fit for Such & Such. Initially we added the U Concrete Pendant and QIE Concrete & Bamboo Pendant to our lighting collection but over the last few years we have added more and more of Bentu’s stunning concrete pendant lights and homewares designs to our collection. Including, concrete wall hooks, soap dishes and plant pots.
We decided it was time we got to know this inspiring Chinese design studio a little better and share their story. Unfortunately for young design studios such as Bentu the mere mention of China or Chinese manufacturing and people assume things are mass produced and that little design has gone into the production. In the case of Bentu, this is certainly not the case, these guys are committed to both individual and experimental design, and their products are by no means mass produced.
In December 2014, Bentu worked on a project with some students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The project involved creating a concrete armchair. The final outcome was a piece which challenged peoples perceptions of this familiar material. An art piece which showed the everyday object of an armchair in a completely new context and form, the total opposite of what we associate an armchair with, i.e. comfort, softness and relaxation. The project also meant re-thinking the way Bentu normally use concrete. The traditional methods for shaping concrete involve building a wooden framework, pouring the aggregate into the frame, which has been lined with a release agent and waiting for the curing process to take place before removing the frame to reveal the negative space of the interior cavity. With knowledge of this technique, Bentu’s design questioned, ‘what if we make an armchair out of concrete?’ the result is an experimental work of art that was collectively completed with the students from the Fine Arts Academy.
Who set up Bentu and can you tell us a little about it?
Bentu Design is a very experimental, exploratory, and unbounded design brand, which is committed to influencing reality and transforming the world through the output of ideas and design.
Bentu Design began as a company that provided a design service and slowly transformed into an individual brand in 2012. Though it’s a young brand, having only been around since 2012, Bentu Design is dynamic. Bentu is committed to building a strong team of individuals with a common goal to produce great design. We believe that a strong team is at the core of what we are doing and that in building a strong team will create a company that will win the respect of others. A team feels happy and free inside. A group of similar people with the same outlook, will naturally come together. Bentu Design, is a group of real youngsters who want to attract more likeminded people to join it and share in its open minded approach. Bentu Design was built up with a simple team who had a desire to design.
The designs are mostly using concrete, can you tell us about the process of making with concrete?
We replicate the building technique used in exposed concrete architecture. The shapes are formed by pouring high quality concrete in in one go. We start with a well-designed shape and then each shape has a unique skin texture from the finish of the concrete which is a natural decoration. This natural pattern created by using the concrete material is also the reason it doesn’t need any other outside decoration. The concrete itself has an excellent aesthetic of power, simplicity and extreme pureness.
What are the plans for Bentu Design in 2015 and do you have any new and exciting products coming out.
We have recently had an exhibition based on our new series of designs called Rebuilt. The Rebuilt series is also the basis for our upcoming products in 2015. The exhibition of Concrete Aesthetics and Bentu Products was held in January and February of this year in Hangzhou City in the Zhejiang Province of China. The exhibition was all about the properties of concrete as a material combined with its waste products…
Can you tell us a little more about your recent Exhibition Of Concrete Aesthetics and Bentu’s Products?
The exhibition began when we started looking at the work of the Israel industrial designer, artist and architect, Ron Arad. We were specifically interested in his Concrete Stereo from 1983 which was designed using waste concrete blocks which set off a real interest among London Designers at the time in taking advantage of waste material. In China, waste material has not been considered in another context and waste remains an existing problem that we need to think about and face. To Bentu, waste concrete has meaning and we decided it could be used in another purpose.
Image Opposite: Ron Arad’s Concrete Stereo, 1983. Image via Long Playing Art
As a brand focused on product desin, Bentu reviewed the conventional concrete materials used in the construction field. It seems to Bentu that a product should first meet the basic functions of what it is made to do and which are the vital features of it as well.
Concrete is a material with high strength and durability which is developing and innovating all the time, however it reveals it is highly unpredictable when used in small batches. Besides the expressive form, it is also difficult to standardize the design language of concrete and produce products in batches as you could with any other material.
From 2010 to 2014, Bentu has been involved with various design organisations in the research and development of combining waste materials with concrete to explore different forms and aesthetics. This research has led to Bentu creating a number of different products using a combination of waste and concrete which has culminated in the Rebuilt Exhibition in South China.
Many thanks to Bentu Design for all the great images and for answering all our questions.
As mentioned above, since interviewing Bentu in 2015, we have continued to work with them and have added more and more of their lighting and homeware products to our collection.