Janus et Cie’s Rio system at Neocon 2015

The Janus et Cie’s Rio system, which is a collaboration with Los Angeles–based Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCHS), creates bold outdoor spaces with a laid-back vibe. Designed to exist as individual freestanding pieces or ganged together, Rio is made up of backless, backed, concave and convex elements that combine to form sinuous shapes.

“The horizontal tube construction is sturdy yet easily bends into a myriad of curvilinear shapes, enabling countless seating configurations,” said Sebastian Salvadó, senior associate at RCHS.

”The tubes are spaced wide apart in some parts of the bench to create lightness and transparency but close together at the seat and seatback for added comfort. This subtle shift in spacing also enhances the benches’ visual appeal. ”

RCHS originally created the Rio benches as a modular seating system for the Tysons Corner Center Plaza in Virginia, where the seats are arranged in a serpentine pattern. The seven benches are made of powder-coated aluminum and come in White, Bronze and Metallic Grey.

Hers is an interview with Rios Clementi Hale Studios about their collaboration with JANUS et Cie on the Rio Bench, which made its debut at Neocon 2015.

Congratulations on winning a HiP Award from Interior Design magazine for the Rio Bench. Rio was built in collaboration with JANUS et Cie and debuted at Neocon 2015. What was that experience like? How did this collaboration affect your process?

Janice Feldman, of JANUS et Cie, and I have been acquaintances for many years. Our first collaboration was on the “Grand Park” furniture line, now being sold through JANUS et Cie as the “Civic” line. Having just recently emerged from that successful partnership, we naturally turned to them to help develop and fabricate the “Rio” design. Working with Janice has allowed our furniture designed for specific projects to be available to a wide audience.

One of the features of Rio is its natural flowing curvature. Could you tell us more about the concept behind its flowing form?

We like to look at the landscape to influence our design ideas. The Rio bench, as its name suggests, is evocative of a meandering river, creating oxbows in the landscape. The design was created for the outdoor areas of Tysons Corner, a shopping and entertainment destination in Virginia. We designed a modular system that mimics the curves of the plaza’s geometry. The combination of curves and modularity creates “eddies” to allow for more intimate seating areas, or can be used for long, sinuous configurations that have a more expansive feeling.

Rio’s design is able to complement large open populated areas as well as more intimate spaces just by changing the combination of pieces that fit together. Why do you think it is able to be so versatile with its environment?

The Rio line is, by design, highly versatile. It can be adapted for many different settings and scales of spaces. It can be used as a continuous, large sculptural element in an urban plaza, and as repeated elements in smaller seating groups, either linear or round. The benches also work at a small scale as individual pieces in a residential landscape or intimate garden—or even indoors. The pieces—backless bench, curved backless bench, convex bench, concave bench—are offered in regular and wide widths for configurations that fit a specific space. The all-aluminum construction makes the modules light and easy for rearranging within a space.

Rio is a modern functional outdoor seating solution, that could also fall into the category of installation art for built environments. Was this original intention for Rio?

The benches were designed to complement and expand the landscape architecture and design of the Tysons Corner plaza. Horizontal bands of seasonally-changing grasses and flowering plants create a soft, rhythmic element that heightens the edges of the elliptical plaza design. The bands of seating reinforce the edges of the ellipses. Seating installations help immerse visitors in the design and environment, making them participants in the landscape. The color for Tysons is a peachy orange, which corresponds the area’s history of peach tree groves. The pieces through JANUS et Cie are available in a variety of other colors.

What is next for Rios Clementi Hale Studios? Is there any more collaborative work in progress?

Collaboration is in our firm’s DNA, as we are architects, interior designers, graphic artists, product designers, and urban planners, in addition to landscape architects. Our product design company, notNeutral, has collaborated on furniture and accessories with Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby, Storkcraft, and Intelligentsia, among others. We were asked by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to interpret items from their collection into plates, cups, trays, and coasters. The first offerings came out for the museum’s grand re-opening last year, and we’re working on a new group of products.

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