In early December 2021, Mario Tsai announced the Hardware Shop Project, based on a series of explorations on the theme of open source design, inspired by the potential of standard, easy to source hardware store materials. A pop-up in Shanghai unveiled the beginning of Tsai’s thinking, with more designs (as well as instructions) planned for the coming months by the designer and his team. 

Hardware shop-inspired design

Hardware shop with silver tubes out front

‘Huida Hardware Shop is located in a village not far from the studio, at the foot of the mountain,’ explains Hangzhou-based Tsai. ‘It mainly sells the hardware and materials needed in the life of the villagers.’ Tsai’s design team started experimenting with some basic materials from the shop, focusing on smoke hoses and foam. 

The design team then created the Hose Collection, which includes furniture, lighting and accessories, with the idea that the production details and materials for each of the works will be shared on the project’s website. 

Foam and silver tubes transformed into lighting by designer Mario Tsai

The objects include a bench made by simply bending the thick silver tubes into an archetypal seat, and two lighting designs made of hoses in different thicknesses, one concealing the light source within, and the other featuring a knotted design and a lightbulb peeking out from one end. Using smaller black tubes, the team also created a series of knotted vases and wrapped the material around a piece of clear glass to make a small table. Foam, another readily available material, was used to fill the ends of the tubes for stability or to hold cables in place. 

Each design can be traced back to Tsai’s intuitive aesthetic language, with an approach somewhere between minimalism and functionality. Tsai calls this project ‘an exploration of public creation’. The simple principle of the initiative, he notes, consists in finding basic construction materials, creating everyday objects in different ways, and hoping to make their production open to the public. §

Foam and black ribbed tubes, transformed into design objects by designer Mario Tsai
Silver tube turned into lighting by Mario Tsai