Discard Detroit

A multidisciplinary team has reimagined the life of iconic MCM furniture that has been weathered, worn, and discarded through a collection of work called Discard Detroit. The work emerges through their collective experience living and working in the heart of mid-century modern beginnings.

The pieces have inspired new life through art in the appreciation of the well worn and loved utility of furniture. The individual pieces are for sale, but limited to editions of 1 with no certainty of when new pieces will be added based on the parameters the team has placed on their project aspirations. 

The Wassily Chair is manufactured by Knoll Inc., led by Florence Knoll, who was an influential designer from Michigan. This original Wassily was found on Craigslist and purchased for $20 from a couple who inherited the piece unaware of its origins and value. It sat in a storage room collecting dust and disappeared from view as other items piled on top such as clothes to be donated and golf clubs.

Harry Bertoia developed wire frame techniques at Cranbrook which would become known and loved all over the world. He graduated from Cass Tech in Detroit before studying at Cranbrook, and his iconic chair is produced by Knoll, Inc. This particular chair has been very well loved by Synecdoche Design’s founder, Lisa Sauve’s mentor. Lisa was given three original chairs and leather pads and she saved the worn pads to have replicas made using them as a template.

Isamu Noguchi, a master sculptor and architect, is well known for his Noguchi Table which is manufactured by Herman Miller, a Michigan company. Noguchi is lesser known for his largest project, Hart Plaza, in Detroit. This was the site where the collection was first photographed. This Noguchi Table entered the collection as the original owner moved to a new home and it did not fit within their interior design scheme.

The fourth piece of the collection is a Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who designed Lafayette Park in Detroit, his largest collection of buildings in the world. This chair comes from the basement of a Mies van der Rohe townhome in Lafayette Park (below), stored away after reimagining the space it once inhabited. Upon painting the chair, it was discovered that one of the pads is original, but the other is a replacement. It is inferred that the second original pad was replaced due to damage while being used.

These iconic examples of MCM design hold court inside museums like the MOMA, but many of these objects have been used, loved, and worn over the decades inside homes as beloved furniture. When the leather is stretched, the seams burst, and the metal is tarnished, the team reimagines value for objects past their prime.

Through a new perspective these expired objects are an active palimpsest – new art on weathered furniture. The uniqueness of their vintage qualities and original art elevate the value beyond the price of newly manufactured pieces as their value isn’t determined by initial quality, but by the irreplicable story of circular art & design.

The series is created by Synecdoche Design, a design-make architecture practice with studios in Ann Arbor and Detroit; Mike Han, a Korean-Detroit artist, designer, and modern vandal; and Ryan Southen, an award winning Detroit based photographer who specializes in commercial, architectural, and wedding photography.

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