New Talent: Alex Brokamp Breathes New Life Into Forgotten Objects
The Los Angeles–based designer, who is being honored at Maison et Objet this week for his furniture and lighting designs, has a knack for turning the familiar on its head.
If you can’t remember the exact color, shape, or finish of one of Alex Brokamp’s designs, that’s OK. For the 27-year-old designer, it is the experience that counts. “When people see my work, I want them to have some sort of emotional reaction,” he says. “If people can remember that feeling, and they don’t really remember what my piece looked like, to me that’s still successful.”
Brokamp has an unusual, and unforgettable, knack for turning the familiar on its head. His Handle with Care table, made of mirror-polished aluminum and glass, is a tongue-in-cheek reinterpretation of a shipping pallet. A visit to the fish markets in Japan, where he encountered industrial strapping and rubber bands used for transporting fish, gave rise to his sleek Tsukiji Light—a floating cluster of slender acrylic and aluminum tubes bundled by a silicone band. “A lot of my products relate to functional objects that have been forgotten or just fade into the landscape,” explains Brokamp. “I like to focus on bridging this idea of technical knowledge in these highly crafted objects with a light-hearted simplicity that is easy to approach and somewhat familiar.”
Even at his young age, Brokamp has amassed wide-ranging experience, cutting his teeth at brands such as Brendan Ravenhill Studio, Matter Made, Such + Such, and Rookwood Pottery. A co-op internship program at the University of Cincinnati, where he received his bachelor’s degree in industrial design, gave him the opportunity to apprentice with a number of studios, including that of the light- ing designer Andrew Neyer. Now in Los Angeles, Brokamp is earning his master’s in environmental design at ArtCenter College of Design while establishing his own eponymous practice. With plenty of resources and tools at his disposal, he’s immersed himself in the city’s design community, experimenting with new typologies and working with fabricators to try out different materials and techniques, from leather upholstery (for a new chair he’s prototyping) to metal spinning (for his R-2230 Lamp).
And while the everyday regularly lends the designer fodder for his objects, lighting, and furniture, so too does his passion for exploring different materials and processes. With his Collate series of aluminum tables, he lays bare fabrication techniques by allowing a CNC-cutting machine to carve a pattern on the tabletop’s surface, which he likens to brushstrokes on canvas. The result, however, is anything but unpolished. The textured design—at once simple and layered—reveals a conceptual approach that doesn’t edge out aesthetics. This series, among others, has deservedly garnered recognition, earning a NYCxDESIGN Award this past spring. And this month, he’ll present his work to an international audience in Paris as one of the designers selected as Maison et Objet’s Rising Talents.
Brokamp might find himself in the spotlight these days, but he’s taking it all in stride, and focusing on the part of de- sign he values most—the ability to make work that is as experiential as it is useful. Whether it is infused with humor or conjures up a sense of nostalgia, the goal, he says, is to “just for a second make someone’s day a little bit better.”
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