CASE STUDY CARBON-FIBRE SNOFA Architect: Snell Associates
'We wanted to produce something truly comfortable, for several people to sit or recline on, with all the qualities of traditional comfort but made with the technology of today, ' explains Robin Snell. 'It's very snug, but at nearly 3m in diameter it's rather more than a sofa, so we called it the SNOFA'. The SNOFA is an integral part of Snell Associates' reconfiguration of a penthouse apartment in London. The apartment has been stripped back to its original steel structure, reclad, reglazed, and fitted with a bespoke-designed interior for a client who was involved with every detail. The open-plan 'living' wing is divided by a purpose-made 'multi-function' unit, designed as a freestanding piece of furniture, 13m long and clad with black Macassar ebony. One side faces the kitchen and houses appliances; the other faces the living space with a dining recess, a media centre and a fireplace recess.
The SNOFA is a polished black shell of carbon fibre (technically known as carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, or CFRP). It encloses a curved seat large enough for a group of people to relax in upholstered leather comfort, either sitting or reclining, which is in front of the media centre. Raised armrests incorporate carbon-fibre tables.
Inset into the back are recessed compartments for a telephone and a computer console - an AMX touchscreen-operated computer system which controls the environment, including opening the rooflights and the blinds and maintaining the Lutron lighting system, the air-conditioning, media, security and CCTV. The choice of carbon fibre - rather than the more obvious glass fi bre - was dictated by the need to resist impact damage, especially at the tightly curved ends; in Snell's experience the major cost in both materials is that of the mould, and carbon fibre has the added advantage of strength.
Visually it is also more attractive; the carbon-fibre material is a fabric weave impregnated with epoxy resin and in its completed state it is just possible to see the woven grain behind the polished surface.