Decomposition Table: first steps / by Ian Devenney

The decomposition coffee table came out of my desire to create a complex and labour-intensive design as a showpiece, rather than a design that could be easily put into larger scale production.
I'm not sure where the idea came from entirely, but I say it is based on the idea of a digital image "decomposing", or losing resolution, to reveal its component pixels. I was looking for the juxtaposition of electronic and organic motifs in a single object and the sensation of movement captured in a solid material.
The first step after coming up with a basic concept was to make a half-scale model with some blocks of poplar:

I liked the general concept, but it wasn't quite resolved so I went on to make two more models out of blue foam at full-scale. Most people who saw those models were either confused as to what I was trying to do, or skeptical that it could be made well. I won't show them here because they were basically a mess of spray adhesive and chemically-melted foam.

The foam was a good starting place for my first digital drawings of the table. At this point, my intention was to make a full-sized dining table with a separate base, so the cascade only went part-way to the floor.

I drew the tabletop in Rhino-3D by creating each block individually and dragging it into position:

I sent this image to my friend, architect Scott Barker, and he suggested that the cascade seemed too jumbled, and could benefit from being smoothed out. I agreed, and modified the drawing:

As you can see, I also started working on the base design. I felt that it needed to be somehow connected to the table, as opposed to just something slapped on top (or bottom, rather). Here was one of my ideas that would use CNC cut steel plate in a profile that mirrored the profile of the cascade when viewed from the end. It would also allow economical use of the material, because both sides of the cut-out were used on opposite ends of the table.
Ultimately, this version seemed too busy and it has been relegated to the cognitive recycling bin.

I did like sections of the cascade. And in my musings over the base design, I really wanted the wood to reach the ground as one of the legs. But it didn't seem realistic to build it as a single piece for a full-height table due to the weight. I thought about numerous options for having a knock-down system for the wooden cascade so the table could be moved in multiple parts but I wasn't sure how to make those connections seamless.

I'm sure there is a way, but the next step was to make a smaller version as practice. No doubt there would be unanticipated challenges in production that would need to get worked out before moving to a full-size table.

This is the drawing that guided my practice: