If your modular furniture from IKEA was fashioned from wood harvested on one continent, cut and finished on another, and shipped to yet a third, that’s not exactly sustainable. That’s why design firm Filson and Rohrbacher decided to replace actual furniture with its evanescent, Platonic ideal: pure information. Download the computerized machine-ready plans at their website and you can use them to build just about anything out of anything.
The concept behind this furniture series, which the firm calles AtFAB, is simple: Give a man a chair and he has a chair, but teach him to chair and he will be LIKE UNTO A CHAIR GOD. Want to build that chair out of lexan or particle board or, what the heck, aircraft-grade aluminum? Here, have 20. Or a million. Or whatever: All the plans are licensed under a Creative Commons license, so go nuts. Use ‘em as is or remix them to your taste.
The secret to this whole process is the increasing ubiquity of computerized CNC machines. These are cutting tools that can carve any hard slab into whatever shape you like — sort of the industrial-grade, subtractive version of those mostly useless 3D printers that geeks like to sell to one another like ditchweed at a jam band show. Using a CNC, “objects can be milled out of any flat material and finished however you choose.”
No CNC machine in your garage? No problem. Filson and Rohrbacher has resources for finding fabricators who will make your AtFAB a reality, or workshops with CNCs that you can use.