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Project Details
Name: Piasa
Designer: Emiliano Godoy
Year: 2005
Materials: FSC certified birch plywood, cotton rope
Finish: Livos
Dimensions medium: 183 x 220 x 1 cm
Dimensions large: 235 x 300 x 1 cm
Status: IN PRODUCTION by Pirwi in Mexico City
The pieces of this screen are joined in such a way that they can freely rotate to create different profiles. Its name comes from an Illini legend telling the story of the Piasa bird, which “was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs”. This scaled room divider can be manufactured in any length, honoring the beast’s incredibly long tail. There are two different heights of this design: 183 and 235 cm.


Piasa was a national selection for the Iberoamerican Design Biennial in Madrid in 2008, and it won second place at the National Design Biennial in Mexico City in 2007.


An ongoing project I’ve worked on since 2004 is the design of pieces made with knit pieces of wood. This project also includes the Knit Chair, a small paper bin called Beem, a trestle (Spot Jamming) and a sofa (Catamarán). At Pirwi, the manufacturing company for these pieces, we’ve adopted the knitting technique for other designs, such as Jam by Rodolfo Samperio and Pirul by Alejandro Castro. This is testament to my belief that a sustainable future should be based on collaboration and solidarity instead of secrecy and competition.


Of all these pieces, the Piasa is the one that uses more efficiently the raw material, as a single cut of a CNC router bit profiles two pieces, leaving only dust and small pieces of wood for each board cut. Furthermore, the large screens fold for shipping and storage, reducing economic and environmental costs.


The resulting aesthetic of the knit pieces is very compelling to me, as well as their conceptual origin. I think about sustainability as a design prerequisite, but the idea of a “Biological Future” became a very powerful driving force because I think as a general framework it is futuristic and achievable, as well as simple and versatile. There are many reasons for this: by using biomass as the primary source for our energy and material needs we will contribute to reduce emissions of green house gasses, simplify our disposal and recycling infrastructure and deal appropriately with products for which no feasible collection currently exists. Biomass is produced by living organisms that are tightly related to Nature’s life-supporting cycles, and its use within sustainable parameters would set the pace for industrial activity. Technological materials would be saved for applications where no biological material performs adequately, and their availability would be guaranteed for a longer period of time. Fewer regulatory and certification entities will be needed if capital production and waste recycling depends on efficient natural cycles, since industrial activities would rely on healthy ecosystems for their energy and materials supply.


The knit pieces have another aspect that I like, which is the fact that they cannot be entirely machine made – they depend on hand work. This means that the payment for the pieces goes primarily to labor instead of tooling amortization, and that their particular aesthetic depends on this. By adding other social and environmental strategies, such as fair labor practices, certified wood and ecological glues and finishes, the pieces become very strong statements about sustainable design. (Emiliano Godoy)