Thursday, February 19, 2009

On/off switch | Tobias Wong | Areaware, United States of America | 2004

Tobias Wong On/off switch Tobias Wong
Areaware, United States of America, 2004

Not every one of my favorite plastic designs is European.  This most impressive item comes from the United States via Tobias Wong and Areaware.

Tobias Wong was born in 1974 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  He studied art at Cooper Union in New York City, where he graduated in sculpture.  As he explains himself, he…

…pursues his own brand of conceptualism, the self-coined "paraconceptual," and "post-interesting," and uses design as a medium to expose the similarities between art and design, rather than to blur their boundaries.  He is the first to note that his work "continually questions the notion of authorship, the role of the artist and the value of art.  He is uncomfortable with uniqueness and preciousness as well as ownership.”

For example, he made a doorstop of twelve pounds worth of  concrete cast inside the iconic Savoy vase by Alvar Aalto, which is smashed to reveal the new object.  His designs have been exhibited at museums including New York's Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Savoy doorstop

There is a limited edition of 12 doorstops. Available from CITIZEN:Citizen and Matter for $3,500.

On/off chrome          On/off gold

Left, in chrome, available from Areaware for $150.  Right, in gold plate, available from Areaware for $250.

Functional and intriguing, I’ve had my eye on this design for a while.  I’ve fitted my loft with X-10 from SmartHome, but there is one lamp I kept off the grid.  Not any more.  The components of the On/off switch come very well packed, placed in plastic bags in a cardboard box containing foam compartments and cardboard dividers.  Short of an absolute catastrophe, nothing is going to happen to the contents.

There is the main switch unit, a white block that contains the electronics with a chrome or gold face plate (to taste) and your standard, everyday toggle switch, all contained in an acrylic box 3.25 by 4 by 6 inches in size.  The top of the box is held fast by magnets but remains easy to open.  You have to remove the faceplate with a flat head screwdriver to install a 9 volt battery.  My battery was DOA and had a 6-2009 expiration date, so maybe mine was sitting around for awhile before purchase.

There is a remote module that gets plugged into an outlet and the device you want to control – not a good idea to control appliances, stick to lamps – gets plugged into the remote module.  This module is the Heath/Zenith SL-6136 RX.  By the way, now you can go ahead and make your own switch.  I think Toby would be proud.  Needless to say, it worked like a charm.  The toggle switch now controls the lamp.

The gold plate is some sort of limited edition, to 500 from what I’ve read.  I got mine from the MoMA store, where it was on sale after the holidays.  While I was at it, I got another for a friend’s birthday.  They say limited too even though they’re chrome, mine being 90; his being 89 out of 500.  Maybe it’s because these are the reissue?  The date on the back is 2008.  Yes, the switch has already gone through the in production/out of production/back in production cycle.

Tobias Wong On/off switch

Front and back of the On/off switch.

On/off switch boxHere’s the box.

On/off switch componentsAll of the components.  Lucite box and top and remote module.

On/off switch imprintThis is the underside of the switch.  “light switch, 2008.  Edition 90/500”.

On/off switch The On/off switch in its normal position.  Within arm’s reach.

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