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Features Made In CHINA

Living Out Of The Box

Originally published in SIX magazine issue 6 – CHINA

CRATES folding furniture series by Naihan Li


Written by Alina Rätsep

Designed for a modern nomad, these take-with-you-anywhere puzzle pieces of a house are what Naihan Li, Beijing-based artist and architect, first designed in 2011 for the ever-shifting Beijing urban playground. Now redesigned in ultra-durable black walnut and stainless steel, these crates cum living space objects are robust enough to travel with you for years – and keep on traveling with your children.

Many things in China change with lightning speed. Nothing tends to stay, and what is discovered is gone as quickly as it appears. Shops and studios, homes and office spaces – stories of landlords breaking contracts and demanding their tenants to move out within days are far to frequent in China. The ever migrating population of expats and locals are looking for an easy way to transfer from one place to another, and IKEA furniture just can’t handle it. Once you put it together there’s rarely pulling it apart without destroying it. At the same time, precious hardwood furniture is not resistant against wear and tear if it’s constantly moved from place to place.

Naihan Li created a solution that suits this generation of The Ones Who Never Stand Still. Inspiration strikes suddenly and without warning, and hers was awakened while unpacking art works from crates for an exhibition in Milan. Crates full of artwork became crates full of bed, bookshelves, work station, chest of drawers, and even a kitchen.

Naihan Li often takes the cream off the modern society’s milk with her work and whips it up with her unique interpretation of the world’s situation. Beautifully crafted, highly functional and supremely mobile – this time her satirical approach took the shape of a solution to a problem, as well as serving as a reflection of modern Chinese society.

Replicating finely finished shipping container exteriors, the CRATES are a way to “avoid losing life while being constantly displaced”, in the words of Naihan Li. The entire household is easily packable, releasing its owners from having to leave things behind or throw them away. “The crates make for a more sustainable living while the built environment is so unstable”, adds Naihan Li. “The household is broken into pieces, which are self contained and last for a long time while you go on the journey”.