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CASE STUDY CARBON-FIBRE SNOFA Architect: Snell Associates

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'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.

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