Lightweight and strong, carbon fiber is coveted by car and airplane manufacturers, but its high cost prevents it from being common in other industries such as furniture design. Still, it’s fun to imagine what you could make with carbon fiber were it to become dirt cheap—or if you were to become filthy rich. (Sir James Dyson commissioned an entire custom-made furniture suite made from the stuff.) Case in point: Davide Anzalone’s architectural Aliante bookshelf, an elegant display piece with a lithe frame that belies its sturdiness.
The long, cantilevered shelves wouldn’t have been possible with any other material, says Anzalone, whose design won first prize in the Carbon Fiber Design Contest sponsored by Olympus FRP, an Italian manufacturer of composite materials. But achieving the unusual proportions posed some challenges: To minimize material while maintaining structural stability, Anzalone made each shelf thicker toward the middle columns (32 cm), to resist heavier loads of books, than they are at their upturned ends (22 cm). The designer also devised an efficient mode of production, using only two molds—one for modular shelves and the other for the center support.
"The idea behind the Aliante bookshelf is to create a 'low air-resistance’ piece of furniture," says. "The inspiration comes from aeronautics ("aliante" is the Italian word for "glider"), and the shape of the shelves reminds [one of] the wings of the aircraft. The winglets at the end of the shelves also create the bookends." Although there’s no official word yet, the Milan-based designer says that Olympus FRP may put the piece into production. Though you could always order one custom made, Sir James.