In theoretical astronomy, an ‘Event Horizon’ is the boundary of a black hole. Beyond that point of no return, nothing — no light, matter or radiation — can escape the pull of the immense gravitational forces of the celestial objects formed by the inward collapse of a star. The Event Horizon table by Newson heralded a new technocratic design sensibility, in which Newson was at the vanguard of a generation of designers who embrace science, mathematics and technological advances as both an inspiration for and a fundamental basis of their work. In his career Newson has employed materials as various as carbon fibre, polypropylene, marble, a Japanese plaster incorporating dried grasses, Corian, electroformed nickel, and a linen/resin composite called Micarta. He has used advanced techniques that range from rapid 3-D prototyping and laser sintering to blow-moulding and hydrojet cutting. Speed, space travel, sci-fi, and streamlined form have been constant themes in his career—all part of a fascination Newson traces to watching the Apollo moon landings as a six-year-old boy. “A sense of utopia; a sense of optimism pervaded” around that NASA mission, he has recalled. “It led me to want to create things, to explore things, to be ambitious.” With the Event Horizon Table, Newson was finally able to fully express what he had sought with the Lockheed Lounge: to work with aluminium as if it were a pliable material, stretching it and warping it seamlessly.
After a period in Tokyo between 1987 and 1991, Newson moved to Paris where he located a chaudronnerie (boiler works) outside the
city where the craftsmen were skilled in producing airplane panels of greater precision than typical coachbuilders. They produced the
first two studies, which were very close to what Newson was looking for. Perfection was not reached until he discovered an Aston Martin body shop restoration firm near London, where the coachbuilders were highly skilled at welding, wheeling, and forming, and worked almost exclusively in aluminium. Their work was a revelation: here were artisan-technicians who could fabricate a design like the Event Horizon table to his exact specifications. “What they do is more akin to silversmithing,” Newson would say. “They work metal as if it were a piece of fabric or plasticene. What you see in the end is this incredibly sensual and refined object.” He showed them one of the studies and described which improvements he sought; by introducing a small but undetectable degree of positive curvature in the tabletop panel, they were able to give it the strength it needed to withstand the curvature introduced at the edges. A groove was also placed along the top, lending subtle character to the surface (recalling the stringer to a surfboard) and adding enough reinforcement to prevent the top from flexing. Made of 16-gauge (about 1.6 mm) aluminium, the Event Horizon table is surprisingly lightweight; Newson wanted the aluminium to be as thin as possible while still having inherent strength. The edges of the aluminium at the ends of the table are rolled inward for reinforcement, adding a decidedly aerodynamic element reminiscent of the grille of a sports car or the air intake of a jet engine. Painting the inner surface to give it a perfectly lacquered finish was another challenge, requiring the talent of highly specialized auto painting experts. In due course the Event Horizon Table, along with its companion pieces the following year’s Orgone Chair, Orgone Stretch Chair and the Alufelt Chair, was shown in a suite of polished and enamelled aluminium furniture at the ‘Wormhole’ exhibition, Newson’s first solo show in Milan, during the furniture fair of 1994.
The Event Horizon is clear evolution of the Black Hole Table first designed during his time in Japan but, as with the other aluminium
pieces of this period, it is the interior, rather than exterior, is the focal point. The Event Horizon table is an exercise in contrasts,
contradictions and illusions—an “impossible mind-fuck” as Newson wryly described it to design critic Alice Rawsthorn. It is a playful yet
mathematical interplay between volume, material, mass and space, solid, yet almost liquid appearance; all-metal, but light in weight.
Newson’s intention was to create an optical illusion, a continuous skinlike form whose interior volume appears to be larger than its exterior volume. It is a table, yet its solid top is underlain by a part-hidden interior space that draws you in towards the contoured funnels of its black hole-like legs, the core of which are each lost into darkness. This contrast is further enhanced by the interplay between the continuous polished exterior surface and its coloured inner core gradually dissipating into the voids.
The Event Horizon announced the arrival of a fully-refined new furniture aesthetic: sleek, seamless, sculptural; organic and yet
industrial. Speaking of the Lockheed Newson later noted “I had a pretty good idea of what it would look like: a seamless, smooth, shinyobject” he has said. “I never wanted it to be covered in panels. That was the only way I could think of to achieve something close to the effectI visualized.” With the Event Horizon Newson finally achieved his visualisation, and produced his first true, perfected masterpiece.