Peter Cohen is a Swedish writer, director, film producer and furniture designer. A graduate of Stockholm University’s College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre, he has produced some of Sweden’s most beloved animated films, and directed several documentaries. In 2007, he was awarded Sweden’s “Furniture of the Year” prize for his hanging book shelf Cell. Cohen’s work is represented Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum.
How to use advanced technology to achieve the ultimate simplicity
Peter Cohen has a feeling for details. Possibly because he made his debut as a designer at the age of 60, after a long career as a storyteller, mainly in film. Anyone who is familiar with making movies knows that it is a long process with many steps. The filmmaker must bring together a myriad of details to create one enchanting story. A keen eye for detail affected how Cohen created his award-winning shelf Cell.
“I set out to design a shelf for someone who owns a lot of books. It had to be very effective in spatial terms, yet aesthetically attractive – strong yet lightweight.”
The solution appeared one night.
“The idea sneaked up on me from behind, while I was sleeping,” says Cohen. “I pictured a bridge, with wires and pylons. I also saw the shape of the double helix, the structure of DNA, with its long, thin strings.”
He started working on a construction featuring parallel metal wires with bead-shaped carriers attached at regular intervals.
“I had to search the whole world to find someone who could make them. I found there are only two manufacturers, and one of them is Swedish. Sadly, they didn’t show any interest.”
Fortunately, they later changed their minds. Together the designer and the engineers developed the wire Cohen needed.
The shelves also called for some innovative thinking and clever construction.
“I wanted them strong yet slender. Thinness played an important role for the look, and I needed the shelves to carry a lot of weight without sagging.”
To meet this goal, the shelves are made from high-strength steel. It’s the same type of steel used to make cars crash-proof. The white laminate has a layer of black underneath, to make the edges visible as thin lines, cutting horizontally through the light, white, airy composition.
When the prototype for Cell premiered, it gave Cohen an immediate break-through as a designer. By the time String Furniture launched Cell in 2008, it had already been awarded “Furniture of the Year” and several other prizes in Sweden. That year Nationalmuseum added it to its collection of contemporary design.
In 2021 String Furniture relaunches Cell, after a few years pause.
Refined, both technically and visually, it’s not just sturdily constructed but uniquely crafted. Perhaps we can credit Cohen’s background for this. When you’ve spent more than half of your life making movies, you understand the value of details – and never give up, no matter how many years it takes to get it right.