“History repeats itself in different ways.” After the nomadic age, human beings initiated living in permanent lodgings rather than moving from place to place. However, today it is evident that there are numerous instances where moving from one place to another is required. These “urban nomads” have become a tread, a lifestyle as well as a necessity in many instances.

By Shenuka Dias

At present, many Sri Lankans moving to the urban city for employment and education have become familiar to mobile living. Moving temporarily from one place to another is a strain, a burden of time and expense. With the density of space increasing in the urban-escape, the optimum use of space is essential. Temporary living can be seen in small rented houses, rented flats, dorm-rooms, and boarding rooms by user groups such as singles, students, and onsite professionals.

Transportable environment, compact living, mobility, flexibility and multi functionality are common areas of focus in the global world of Architecture and Design. However, it is a fairly new concept to the Sri Lankan Furniture Industry, where production does not meet the demand of this migrant population living in temporary lodging. Designer Gnanaharsha Beligatamulla of the University of Moratuwa, responded to this need in finding a solution through his final year comprehensive design project in furniture design.

The designer’s solution is a composition of furniture that is portable, which fulfills the basic living environment for a single user. This prototype collection of furniture consists of a table, chair, shelving unit, clothes rack, wardrobe unit, and a bed which also plays the role of a stool, and two benches. All these pieces can be quickly assembled with the help of a catalog provided by the designer, which can be dismantled when necessary and flat packed into a box (3 ½’L x 2 ½’W x 1 ¼’H) for easy transport.

The designer has focused firmly to generate a design solution that supports the activities of working, sleeping, sitting and storage, through an ergonomically designed mobile environment that keeps the user comfortable by their form related to the particular functions. Comparatively these designs add a competitive advantage over the heavy, costly, bulky, rigid and decorative furniture which are used in these small spaces.

The prototype is constructed in an Aluminum framework and Aluminum Composite Panels which are durable, lightweight, and cost effective materials commonly available in Sri Lanka. Material exploration during the development of the project has shown the designer the potential use of many other materials such as Steel Extrusions, Medium Density Fibre Boards, Polycarbonate Sheets, and Plywood, which are also available commonly in the market today.

The aesthetic value added by the surface design in an organic pattern adds beauty to the product by breaking the rigid geometrical form and otherwise monotonous look.

In modern day society, people have become more complex and busy than in the past few decades. Due to the dramatic changes in the economic and social environment, the lifecycle of the people change day by day, which in turn demand new requirements every day.

This beginning can be further developed into mass production using other suitable material. Hence this is just the beginning of a creative furniture solution, which may be an eye opener to the various opportunities available for the furniture industry of our country.