Geographical Context in Material Innovation

London-based architecture studio CAN  launched Liquid Geology, a collection continuing the practices’ experimental research into innovative material used in unexpected contexts. By Aarthi Mohan


Distinctive buildings, places, objects and spaces which subvert and amplify social and cultural contexts and respond to their physical bound, characterises the work ethos of London-based architecture studio CAN stands for. They create idiosyncratic and striking projects, underwritten by cultural and historical research and believe that architecture can and should make the city a more joyful, inclusive and exciting place to live and work.


The ‘Liquid Geology’ series features a dining, coffee and side table characterised by chunky rubber coated bases, slimline and steel enamel tops. The steel is hand cut and slightly bent to form a soft lip around the edge. The table tops are coated with rich blue, green or orange enamel and fired in a kiln at 820 degrees celsius, before being hand splattered in a contrasting tone and re-fired.


The rough, craggy bases are coated in ‘rubber rock’, a unique material composition of recycled rubber chips and resin developed by CAN whilst researching alternative material uses in furniture production. Each base, which varies in size and form, is hand cast and coated in deep gloss paint to enhance the texture.

The collection explores the idea of contrast through scale, texture and materiality. Inspired by the rugged coastal scenery, underwater deep sea landscapes and Claude Monet’s 1880’s paintings of sunrise and sunset on the River Thames, CAN drew on the rich detailing and colouring of the impressionists’ work alongside the practices’ ongoing research into geographic contexts to arrive at furniture with an otherworldly feel. The table tops offer a reflective, lightly undulating surface like that of a lake which appears to float on rocky underwater outcrops, resulting in a collection of sculpture-like furniture designed to intrigue.


Liquid Geology embodies CAN’s unique studio personality, unencumbered by style and influenced by kaleidoscopic colours, classical art, geography, pop culture, music and film. “Liquid Geology is the culmination of our research into under utilised materials to create hyperreal spaces and products. The distorted scale of the super thin steel on chunky bases hints at looking through the tables through a watery lens, or a cross-section of a mountainous lake,” says Mat Barnes, founder and Director, CAN.


The project exemplifies CAN’s imaginative approach to spatial and product design, demonstrated in earlier projects including their viral London house, Mountain View, and exhibition design for ‘All That Could Have Been’ at the Sir John Soane Museum in 2020.


All Images Courtesy of the Architects