For Tectona, Martin Szekely makes a rare foray into industrial production

Designer Martin Szekely creates a paradoxical new range of outdoor furniture for French manufacturer Tectona – called ‘Soleil’, it is as much about shadow as it is about light

Martin Szekely outdoor furniture for Tectona
Martin Szekely and his outdoor furniture for Tectona
(Image credit: Courtesy Tectona)

We last saw Martin Szekely at the Louvre, for which he had designed a range of seating, announced in 2021. While the benches for public use were finished in leather, the other pieces in the collection soberly highlighted their pure lines in nude oak multi-ply, with grain and layering made manifest at the edge. Now, for Tectona, the designer, who is also a skilled cabinetmaker, has turned once again to wood with ‘Soleil’ (meaning ‘sun’), a collection of three outdoor furniture pieces – an armchair, a footrest and a coffee table. 

Martin Szekely and Tectona: furniture playing with sunlight

Martin Szekely outdoor furniture for tectona

(Image credit: Courtesy Tectona)

This time he has chosen larch, which represents a small revolution for Tectona, a manufacturer known for its products in teak. Just as resistant, larch has the huge advantage of not being an endangered species. 'Larch comes from our regions,' explains Szekely. 'It turns silver-grey when it comes into contact with precipitation and is a rot-proof species, so therefore durable. Above all, it is very beautiful and soft to the touch.'

The tactility of larch has here been augmented by the very particular way in which the wood has been cut, allowing the hand to slide along its curves despite the hollows that pit the surface here and there. Multiple prototypes were required to reach the desired perfection of assembly, which was achieved using a digitally controlled tool. Only in this way could Szekely obtain the subtle play of sunlight passing through each piece to draw all sorts of shapes on the ground.

Detail of Martin Szekely Tectona chair

(Image credit: Courtesy Tectona)

'It wasn’t so much the form of the object that was important but rather the effects of light falling on it,' he explains. 'The shadows it casts are constantly changing with the course of the sun.' This idea of designing from the point of view of an object’s projection will come as no surprise to connoisseurs of Szekely’s oeuvre or to those who saw his 2011 Centre Pompidou show, ‘Ne plus dessiner’.

The Tectona collaboration once again illustrates Szekely’s insistence on keeping a certain distance with respect to his work for brands and his refusal to design 'signature' objects for this type of client. 'The unique or limited-edition pieces I make under my own name are the result of research I’ve been undertaking for the past 40 years,' he explains. 'When I’m designing for brands, it can only, as far as I see it, be an expression of the brand’s history, its DNA, and not an expression of my personality.' Which goes to show what a rarity the ‘Soleil’ series represents in the career of a designer whose quest for purity is more used to collectible pieces and museum commissions than to large-scale production. It took all of Tectona's unparalleled savoir-faire to convince Szekely to make an exception to the rule.