Gregg Fleishman works from a studio/showroom in downtown Culver City that has the lively air of a community center. Visitors to his studio can see all sort of experiments in all stages of construction, and Gregg welcomes input from visitors of all ages. These experiments are broadly defined by Gregg into three general areas of work: Structures, Furniture, and Vehicles.

Most of these experiments have something in common: they all involve new ways of exploiting the unique physical characteristics of plywood, while preserving its structural integrity. "The goal is to simplify the making of furniture and other objects by eliminating complexity. We live in a culture with limited resources, and we have to start learning how to get more from less."

Even after thirty years of experimentation, says Fleishman, "There's always a feeling that I could do better. I have an uncontrollable urge to try to surpass myself."

BIO
Gregg Fleishman was born in 1947, in Los Angeles. His mother Phyllis Fleishman, is the founder of Play Mountain Place, the oldest "free" school in CA. He was raised at the school, and continues to live on the school grounds, crediting his unique association with the school and its form of education for his creative abilities.

From the beginning, Play Mountain Place has been a unique play environment with custom-built equipment-- a fish jungle gym designed by a parent and built by Manny Fleishman (Gregg's father) dates from 1952. Domes and jungle gyms built of interlocking geometric shapes, some early structural experiments by Fleishman, are now an integral part of the play environment.

Fleishman was awarded a Bachelor's of Architecture in 1970 from University of Southern California. His Raleigh Studios Parking Structure incorporates columns which double as trompe l'oeil trees. The trees are made of tile work installed by father, Manny. Fleishman's work can also be seen in the design of courtyard umbrellas and furniture for the Santa Monica mall, Edgemar Center, designed by Frank Gehry.

Fleishman's furniture has been shown in galleries, museums, and publications internationally, and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University Art Gallery, the Vitra Design Museum, and the Laguna Art Museum.

MATERIALS AND METHODS
The material Fleishman generally employs is "veneer core": a European birch plywood originating from Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Poland. The Finnish plywood is of the highest quality, benefitting from the Finns' long history of working with the material. A relatively wide range of surface finishes are also available.

"I came to this material by accident in the mid '70's and have been using it ever since. The material has such integrity that I can cut patterns in it much as if it were plastic or metal sheet, yet it retains the physical characteristics and feel of a hardwood."

All the work in Fleishman's studio is done by hand. Though he continues to experiment with the use of CNC machining, there are still technical issues that must be worked out before this is feasible on a large scale.

 

STRUCTURES
Fleishman's interest in designing new ways of making structural connections dates back to his student days. Over the next three decades, he refined these methods, resulting in several modular building systems. Prototypes for these systems fill his studio, and are favorite play structures for children. Fleishman, however, foresees the day when they may offer a global housing solution. (See the structural photo montage included).

"I have focused on structure exclusively, more specifically the connection systems possible to create structures, even those of modest size, always choosing simplicity over scale.

"It so happened that I kept coming back to a very simple sphere like form made up of 18 squares and 8 equilateral triangles such that I eventually was able to construct it with 12 squares connected point to point, leaving six open squares and the eight open triangles. The connection I eventually developed consisted of alternating tabs and slots in the four corners of each square panel. When I extended the 12 panel surfaces into the intervening open areas and a diamond shape was formed, the resulting module is called a rhombic dodecahedron and lo and behold I could reverse the connections and form interconnected adjacent modules. I had discovered a panel connection for a "space filling" three-dimensional construction system."

"The plywood will work well at moderate scale in temperate climates, however, the final material may be a cast composite material with a foam core and sealable edge detail."

 

FURNITURE
Tables, chairs, or desks-- all the furniture in Fleishman's studio takes the unique physical characteristics of plywood as a basis for exploration. Fleishman's patented slotted structure allows various amounts of flexibility to be defined in specific areas: the key to a comfortable and dynamic sitting experience. The slots also allow different planes of the chair to mutually connect and support each other, forming flexible seating surfaces without the use of additional fasteners. Fleishman thus coaxes out the natural properties of the wood, resulting in a time-tested chair with "body hugging" flexibility, but also great structural integrity and strength.
It is, as said by The Los Angeles Times (March 4, 1999) "a chair that moves with you, or as one chiropractor so characteristically noted, results in 'spinal exercise without effort.'"

Each piece of furniture originates from a single sheet of laminated plywood, from which it is hand-cut into coil-like patterns with a router. The natural spring in the plywood facilitates the next stage in assembly: bending the now flexible sheets into a three-dimensional chair ready for use.

The first chair he made was made of interlocking slots, but Fleishman discovered the springiness of wood when he had cut the wood up so much that the parts became flexible. He was fascinated by this property, and used this flexibility to reduce the number of parts in the final chair.

"I wanted a light comfortable chair with few parts and no fasteners. And I wanted a chair that could be easily built in multiples with a minimum of machinery and operations. Discovering the right slot patterns, however, was a long process. It took me 4.5 years and 34 different prototypes before I was somewhat satisfied with the design of the Lumbarest...."

Recently, Fleishman began displaying two stages of each chair simultaneously: The assembled chair sits on the floor, ready for testing by curious visitors. Behind each finished chair, hangs a wall case displaying the same chair in its flat form, as it appears straight off the cutting board. Each case is built from salvaged pieces left over from the cutting of each chair. The wall-mounted chairs can be easily removed from these wall mounts and then assembled. (See attached photo showing Fleishman testing out a NEW WAVE chair. The LUMBEREST (left center rear), the CATAPILLAR (right center rear), and the WAVE (top) are the three other models pictured.)

Fleishman has also applied similar structural innovations to his designs for tables and chests.

CURRENT AND UPCOMING WORKS
Several projects are in the works, including furnishing the new "tea room" at the Museum of Jurassic Technology and providing design and new structures for two local school playgrounds.

COPYRIGHTS and TRADEMARKS
2003 Gregg Fleishman