EQ

– Nestled between

 

 

the northern Atlantic coast and the western stretches of the Pyrenees Mountains lies the village of Itsasu. Here, they call it Basque Country. Straddling the borders of France and Spain, the region reflects a mix of geography, language, and culture melded into an identity all its own. It was in this tradition that the Itsasu-based workshop and furniture studio, Alki, was founded.

 

 

 

FOR OVER 35 YEARS, ALKI HAS BEEN DRAWING UPON THE REGION’S RICH ARTISAN TRADITIONS AND THE QUIET BEAUTY OF ITS NATURAL SURROUNDINGS TO DESIGN PIECES THAT COULD BE DESCRIBED AS MODERN BASQUE CRAFT.

 

 

For many who work at Alki, Basque Country is the only place they’ve ever called home. Building the workshop here was born of a desire to work wherever it is you live. And that’s a sentiment you can appreciate immediately—as if passing through each product, Alki is imparting a sense of what it means to live wherever it is you work.

 

That feeling of welcome and warmth was among the many things that drew us to Alki. Given our interest in social settings, we’re always looking at the ways design affects work inside space, but we’re equally curious about its effect inside ourselves. At one level, social spaces express the values and identity of the work culture—but that only cuts at the surface. Ultimately, we are looking at the way social spaces deliver a new form of emotional ergonomics that extends the role of design into the realm of the sensory.

 

 

– Social spaces

 

 

must create interest and compel people to want to work there. In organizations that seek to promote serendipity, attracting people from across the office is a natural expectation. And because people and their work have different needs, a space must signal how it will fulfill a person’s desire for energy and motivation or decompression and recharge. Inside a space, we also examine the ways design can engage—exploring how, for example, setting configurations, posture affordances, and tactile interactions can activate a range of sensory responses.

 

 

 

WHEN THE WORKSPACE IS EMOTIONALLY ATTUNED TO OUR NEEDS, WE’RE ABLE TO ENGAGE WITH OUR WORK MORE INTIMATELY AND EXPERIENCE COMFORT IN BOTH BODY AND MIND.

 

 

The right space not only improves our overall productivity and well-being, but also creates a destination that people return to.

 

 

– Alki is unique

 

 

in this regard. Their appreciation for form and materiality is what imbues their designs with an emotional resonance. In every detail, there are strong visual textures as well as tactile expressions that can elicit joy, project calm, or mitigate the effects of workplace stress.

 

So often, traditional approaches to design are too narrow in their scope, optimized to perform a specific task or singular function. Design of this nature is destined to treat people like cogs, bereft of any ability to think or feel. But people are impulsive, their fate tied to the whims of a state of mind constantly in flux, whose moods and motivations can change on account of a splash of color or a fleeting conversation.

 

Understanding the ways people respond to and derive pleasure from design informs how Alki approaches their craft. “I’m especially interested in the emotional relationship that we, as people, develop with certain objects,” says Jean Louis Iratzoki, Alki’s Artistic Director. “‘Why do we like something?’ and ‘Why do we keep only some objects?’ The search for this affection is a constant in my work.” For Alki, design is a holistic endeavor.

 

The sanctity of the essential is a prevailing influence in their work. Design, to Alki, is not a disguise, “but rather a continuous pursuit of purification.” It’s among the many reasons they design with natural materials—most notably, sustainably managed oak. Wood transcends the indulgences of contemporary living. There’s a connection to oak that is steeped in local traditions and endemic to Alki’s outdoor surroundings. But in many ways, it speaks to something more innate—a sentiment resembling what sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson would describe as our predisposition to subconsciously pursue connections with nature.

 

 

ATTRACTION TO OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT IS ROOTED IN OUR HUMANITY.

 

 

 

For Alki, this deep kinship with natural materials not only symbolizes a commitment to sustainable development, but also serves as a constant reminder that our desires—no matter where we work—are to find harmony within the world we inhabit.

 

 

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