Stretch Goals: Smooth Shape-Shifting ‘Friction Table’ Deforms on Demand

Compact and round for board games and intimate conversations, this flexible table gracefully stretches to become a long dining or boardroom surface without adding pieces or moving parts. Paper set in resin creates a kind of lattice structure that enables Friction to adapt to different needs, stable in either extreme form or anywhere in between. Stretched to its limit, it is 12 feet long and can seat up to 8 people.

Designed by Heatherwick Studio, it aims to accommodate groups of different sizes using simpler means than conventional slot-panel shape-shifters. Over 50 slats were slotted into the framed, calibrated and aligned to allow the surface to expand and legs to move seamlessly as it does. Like a wooden picnic table, gaps form in between slats, but these are narrow enough not to be a bother for most applications.

The form may be new but the design draws on vintage techniques and technologies. “Its grain and texture are derived from the fibres of the paper and the alternating orientation of the layers,” explains Heatherwick. “The resulting surface has a rich tactile quality and a naturally mottled colour which ages gracefully over time.”

This approach reveals something about the construction to users as well. “At any point in between, the surface is opened to reveal the internal lattice feature and offer a larger table top. Whilst the table construction represents the utmost precision and engineering, the finishing process of the table is much like traditional, hand-crafted furniture.”