Each city has its own unique urban form, much like a human fingerprint, there are no two cities exactly alike. This notion helps to underpin the philosophy of Urban Fabric, a made-to-order, bespoke rug company.
Urban Fabric currently have an exhibition in Shanghai that is showing an exciting series of area rugs inspired by urban patterns. It is the inaugural exhibition at the new Art Labor gallery space. CNCREATE spoke to Andrei Zerebecky, the man behind Urban Fabric, to get the lowdown on his company and the exhibition at Art Labor.
Urban Fabric started as a personal project for Andrei but has since grown into something bigger. “Architects and urban planners often use the term ‘urban fabric’ to describe the various forces at play within our urban environments and the elements that weave together to make our cities unique,” Andrei tells me.
It was while studying Architecture at the University of Toronto and flying home frequently that he first began to appreciate the stunning myriad of green textured agricultural fields surrounding his hometown of Saskatoon, in the Prairie region of Canada.
“After I had begun practising in Toronto, I encountered a ‘Call for Entries’ for design prototypes to be exhibited at the IDS Interior Design Show – Canada’s largest Interior Design exhibition. I submitted an aerial photo taken through the airplane window, curled up the corner using Photoshop and called it a rug. When they selected my design to be exhibited at their upcoming exhibition, I very quickly learned how to make rugs!”
Shortly after this Andrei relocated to Shanghai to work as an architect. “The sheer scale of this city blew my mind – especially coming from such a low-density population like Saskatchewan. While working on my first design projects in Shanghai and getting to know the city, I looked at maps, figure-ground diagrams and – of course – Google Earth. I realized Shanghai’s street grid was very unique – looking more like a bowl of noodles than the rectilinear street networks of North American cities I was familiar with.”
“It was clear that Shanghai, Paris, Barcelona, New York – these cities evolved out of the influence of specific tangible and non-tangible constructs (geography, economy, planning, politics etc.). I began comparing city grids, studying the influences that made each city’s urban form unique and abstracted them into plush three-dimensional map rugs – starting with URBAN FABRIC Shanghai. Thus the Urban Fabric project was born.”
Once he had made the first couple of rugs, Andrei partnered with former classmate Łukasz Kos to exhibit some design products together. That exhibition proved to be a turning point for both as they won international recognition, including an award from Perspective Magazine in Hong Kong as one of the ’40 Under 40 – Design Stars of Tomorrow’ award winners.
Now in addition to a wide range of signature urban rugs, they have begun collaborating with notable artists and architects on unique Limited Edition collections. Collaborators include sculptor and famed Musician Magne Furuholmen, architect/artist Elena Manferdini and most recently, internationally acclaimed architect Jimenez Lai.
The exhibition with Art Labor came about because Andrei was commissioned to design the new space, which only opened in July 2017. Martin Kemble, gallerist/owner of Art Labor wanted to relocate the gallery and to combine it with a private residence.
Andrei said about his approach to renovating the space, “The gallery occupies an old brick warehouse building in Shanghai’s developing art district near Moganshan Lu. We knew a gallery requires large expanses of continuous white walls for the display of various works. But we also wanted to retain the character of the original industrial structure, exposed brickwork and tall timber-framed ceilings. Therefore our intervention concentrated on the bottom half of the space, treating wall and floor as one continuous white canvas.”
As Andrei has designed the new space, it seems fitting that he should be the first to exhibit at the space. “I designed the URBAN FABRIC exhibition to take advantage of this continuous white plane. Rugs are playfully shown on floors, walls and somewhere in between – a reflection of how our fans often regard these works (i.e. meant for a floor but fit for a wall).”
The show features new pieces from the Urban Fabric signature collection, including Barcelona, Los Angeles and Vancouver – as well as showcasing the Limited Edition works of collaborating artists: Furuholmen, Manferdini and Lai.
Urban Fabric rugs are hand-made from 100% New Zealand wool and Chinese silk. Varying pile heights give the rugs a signature depth and playful texture. The colours of the rugs are often inspired by the cities themselves. Shanghai is represented in a deep rich red color for its multiple levels of significance within Chinese culture; good luck, fortune, happiness and of course the flag of China.