How Coffey Architects and Compac joined forces to design a quartz table

For Wallpaper* Handmade 2018, we challenged Coffey Architects and marble and quartz manufacturer Compac to create a hybrid design inspired by the theme of wellness. Here, we go behind the scenes to find out how the Stepwell table was bought to life

A quartz table - a table with a square hold in the centre.
For Wallpaper* Handmade 2018, Coffey Architects and Compac collaborated to create a quartz table inspired by India’s Chand Baori stepwell.
(Image credit: Coffey)

London-based Coffey Architects and Spanish marble and quartz manufacturer Compac teamed up for Wallpaper* Handmade ‘Wellness and Wonder’ to create the Stepwell table, a meditative monument with a window into another world at its base. The stoic form is an art piece, inspired by the Chand Baori in Jaipur, India where hundreds of layered steps lead down to a cool pool of healing water – a respite in the heat and a sculptural edifice in its own right.

For Michael Henriksen, architect at Coffey Architects, the Stepwell table was an opportunity and a challenge. Usually working on residential buildings, Coffey Architects wanted to create a beautiful conceptual object that could also be something practical and useful to the domestic environment. The result was a piece of sturdy craftsmanship, that investigates the properties of light and mass: ‘light is always the starting point,’ says Henriksen of all his work at Coffey Architects.

A close-up of the Coffey Stepwell Table - two hands holding onto a solid white material on top of other solid white materials.

(Image credit: TBC)

Wallpaper* teamed Coffey Architects with Compac, a manufacturer based in Spain and Portugal. Henriksen presented eight different designs to the company, each modelled around the theme of ‘Wellness and Wonder’, and after discussions with the Compac designers and craftmen. Henrikson then refined the design of the Stepwell table, and packed the model to take to Compac's HQ and production site in Valencia.

In Valencia, Compac led the Coffey design team on a workshop tour, and flicked through sketch books together in the open-plan office and its smooth, bright working surfaces. Henriksen describes Paco Sanchis, CEO at Compac, as the ‘Steve Jobs of surfaces’. ‘There was a clear challenge in how the piece would be made, but we could see the Compac team was determined to do it,’ he says.

I like the idea of creating space in furniture and questioning how to inhabit something solid

A white and grey-coloured variation of Calcutta quartz was selected for the main material – a slight mottle to soften the effect of the surface was simple, yet not too expressive, to allow focus to be rested on the stepped nature of the form. At the heart, the ‘pool' of healing water is represented by a green coloured material, ‘Compac Ice’ that just entered Compac’s production.

To create the design, the thickness of the sheets of quartz had to be tested to see if it could create the desired effect of the delicate steps building up to create the Chand Baori in miniature. From the standard 20mm thickness, Compac refined the material down to just 6mm thickness, to allow light to seep gently through the material. ‘They are artists who have to be really technical,' says Henriksen of the Compac design team.

Sketch of the Stepwell Table - four layers on top of each other.

(Image credit: TBC)

‘There's a mini architecture inside, it draws you in and over to look inside. Carving is an idea we explored a lot with this design, I like the idea of creating space in furniture and questioning how to inhabit something solid.'

The Stepwell table conceals a playful sense of illusion within its form through the layering of sheets of the quartz. While it appears solid (and is certainly heavy, weighing 200kg), light floods through the material from the LED acrylic centre creating an even, calming glow.

A close up of the Compac quartz design

(Image credit: TBC)

Danish-born Henriksen has been working at Coffey for nine years, mainly focusing on residential schemes, although recently projects have been getting bigger, such as a research centre at the Science Museum, and a university library extension. The studio like to try their hand at experimental projects too – they recently created a window display for the Smeg Picadilly Circus store that cast shadows onto the pavement, and also designed a playful concrete and timber doll's house for a charity auction for disabled children.

‘For a long time I have been keen to explore products. With my Scandinavian background, I’ve looked a lot to midcentury architects like Arne Jacobsen, who designed everything from taps to furniture, not to mention some of the greatest buildings – I like the idea of total design.'

A close-up of Quartz being cut at Compac using a circular saw.

(Image credit: TBC)

Architects and designers sitting around a table

(Image credit: TBC)

Models and plans

(Image credit: TBC)

The refined edge of the quartz

(Image credit: TBC)

A Quartz table.

(Image credit: Wallpaper)


For more information, visit the Coffey Architects website and the Compac website

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.