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Designer Steven Pollock left a career in tech to rediscover a passion for wood, concrete and steel.
Portrait by Carlo Ricci
In an industrial corner of East Vancouver, behind colourful street art and graffiti tags in what was once the boiler room of a century-old warehouse, Steven Pollock transforms concrete and wood into functional works of art. Here, he mulls and muses over designs: a coffee table of felled wood atop two concrete slabs; deceptively simple concrete vessels, each with its own pattern of air bubbles. It’s a workspace that’s a world away from where this year’s Furniture Designer of the Year started.
Pollock has occupied the boiler room at 1000 Parker Street, amid a diverse set of other art and design studios, since he left a successful tech career and the skyscrapers of downtown more than a decade ago. “I was always executing plans and dreams for other people,” he says. And he was bored. After realizing he wanted more than financial reward, he remembered his love of woodworking and art classes in high school.
“I jumped back in,” says Pollock, “making my own mistakes, learning what I like and don’t like, working for myself.” That blank slate has become a distinct, authentic perspective and fresh, raw style. “His history and ambition to change professions in a competitive industry are inspiring,” says judge and past British Designer of the Year Lee Broom. “And being self-taught gives him an edge.”
Pollock takes inspiration from his surroundings—urban architecture or forested mountains—rather than from mentors. Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge was the stimulus for a glass, concrete and steel office desk, its concrete legs like abutments and the holes in its custom-welded I-beam akin to rivets. A table with circles of white oak, spaced apart to withstand outdoor elements, seems to emulate the rings of a tree trunk. The cantilevered Balance table, slight yet strong, is an iteration of the construction cranes that proliferate across Vancouver’s skyline and a comment on balancing constant development within our finite world, says Pollock.
Pollock’s minimalist, organic palette—indigenous and reclaimed wood, concrete, steel, glass—is limited, yet the juxtapositions of these materials create infinite opportunities for new designs. “The combinations of opposing materials such as metal, concrete and wood are challenging,” says Broom, “yet Steven has made it look so easy.” And while Pollock doesn’t purposefully create contrast, he uses “whatever the piece calls for” to achieve balance: steel gives structure, concrete provides substance and wood adds warmth.
Pollock has mastered the rare art of creating designs that are at once intricate yet simple. “The Balance table,” notes judge Thom Fougere, creative director of EQ3, “resolves a complex gesture with a simple engineered resolution.” With its solid-yet-airy concrete and lithe-yet-strong steel, it’s a manifestation of the minimalist-yet-magnanimous statement in all ofPollock’s work.