Nolan Mayrhoffer is not taking it easy. He is a man on a mission, and he is taking his concrete design and forming company, Szolyd Development, to new and exciting places. Szolyd has begun to work with Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC), which is a construction product that has designers everywhere drooling. UHPC is stronger than concrete, allowing designers and architects to create thinner sections with much longer and lighter spans than they were previously able to do. Buildings and products built with UHPC are graceful, light, and extremely durable. UHPC also holds up against corrosion, impact and abrasion. In order to get this product out into the world, Szolyd is collaborating with local designers who are bringing their creative ideas to the table.
With drawings in their hands, the team at Szolyd uses their expertise to create molds in order to build furniture and other pieces using UHPC. As Nolan explains, “that way the piece is getting made, locally, with this state of the art material, and we get to guide the whole process – and the process is so fun.” Collaborating with local designers is also a great way to increase the visibility and relevance of Victoria as a design hub. Nolan is excited about the idea of creating a business model in which “local producers and artisans are coming together and creating good durable products that are tasteful, and are going to be around for a long time, and aren’t going to be thrown away.”
One of the designers that Szolyd is working with is Chilean born Cristian Arostegui of Arostegui Studio. Cristian is a young furniture designer who is interested in sustainability and local manufacturing, so working with Szolyd is a natural fit. Cristian took the model of his beautiful curved Marea bench, originally made with red oak and inspired by the shape of ocean waves, and redesigned it to suit the properties of UHPC.
Built with UHPC, the lines of this modular bench will be very thin and sleek yet still incredibly strong, structurally. Collaborating with Szolyd opens up the potential for this product to be created and produced locally in larger quantities, with the possibility of selling to a much wider client base than he can with custom pieces for local clients.
Szolyd is also collaborating with Kirk Van Ludwig of Autonomous Furniture Collective to create the Gesture console table. Kirk describes the process by explaining that he wanted “to have a picture-frame of a crazy wood-veneer piece, and that’s where it started. So I had two pieces of acrylic sandwiching this piece of veneer, and I was thinking, how could that work as a console table? That’s where it started, but then the practicality side came in, and nothing seemed to work.” Around the same time, Kirk met Nolan, and the collaboration began. Kirk says that he “knew about their company, but somehow we ended up meeting, and right away I could see like-minded thinking, and I’ve always been interested in concrete.”
The curved edges and thin lines of the Gesture table will work perfectly using UHPC because it can take any form, just like concrete, but is so strong that it can be built much, much thinner than with traditional concrete. And, like with the Marea bench, once the mold is created, the table will be able to be reproduced many times, reducing both waste and the cost of building per unit.
The work that Szolyd, Arostegui Studio, and Autonomous Furniture Collective are creating is something that Victoria has never seen. The products are innovative, world-class pieces, all dreamed up right here in this little Island city.