Furniture and objects by Switzerland-based American designer Ini Archibong are steeped in his unique background. The son of Nigerian emigrants—an engineer and a computer scientist—Archibong grew up in Pasadena, California, in a household where mathematical minds also meditated on West African totems, masks, and antiquities.
In the two years since he debuted his designs at the Milan Furniture Fair, the 35-year-old has gained a reputation for using science and songs to coax an otherworldliness from materials such as hand-blown glass, computer-cut Carrera marble, and honed black granite.
Below the Heavens, his 22-piece collection of luxe seating, tables, and lighting for British manufacturer Sé, is in that vein: The cantilevered top and gold leaf pattern of the Eos Dawn table (left) convey geometry and movement; Archibong says the decal is an algorithm he generated in the CAD software he became accustomed to using while he was apprenticing at an architecture firm. At a glance, high-backed, low-seated profiles of the collection’s Circe armchairs and sofas bring to mind both a cloud and an African tribal chair. And true to his roots in the Los Angeles area's underground music scene, Archibong’s creative process involves selecting music to sketch by, before he sets pencil to paper. He either curates a playlist or composes songs himself.
While introducing Sé to his heady process, Archibong, who holds a Master’s in Luxury and Craftsmanship from École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ÉCAL), also helped the company embrace glass as a high-end luxury material. “There’s a special quality to it that lends itself to fantasy,” he says. “You’re not working with the material as much as you’re working with the light it can filter and reflect.”
All the materials chosen for Below the Heavens—combinations of marble, ceramic, bronze, brass, and glass—also serve a purpose unrelated to function: eliciting emotion. “To see glass on top of stone, something heavy on top of something fragile,” he says, “evokes a feeling.”
This story was featured in Material World, Architectural Record’s products-focused newsletter. Subscribe today!