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The designer behind Workbench Studio has deep roots in traditional craftsmanship, but his work is as innovative as it gets.
“My father was a very handy, ingenious type of man,” says Mario Paredes, the maker behind Vancouver-based Workbench Studio. “We had a huge garage, and there was always access to hundreds of tools and something to do—that’s probably why I chose to become an architect.” Paredes earned his master’s degree in architecture in Barcelona, where he grew up, but quickly found a disconnect between his studies and his hands-on work. Those early experiences helping his dad—plus a few teen years working in construction—had set a foundation that Paredes says was missing in his studies. “Some architects picture themselves as this superior being that can overrule material logic—but you need a very deep understanding of not only the materials, but the capabilities and limitations of machinery,” he explains.
He yearned for that tactile, practical work, and, in 2018, he found it at Vancouver’s Parker Street Studios. “I was like, ‘What is this madness? I need to get in,’” Paredes says of the 152,000-square-foot industrial art studio centre. Now, the designer has a permanent space in the building, where he creates custom furniture, art installations and just about anything else he can dream up—like, for example, a wooden bicycle frame made from white ash.
The designer named his studio after the last project he and his father completed together: the restoration of a set of century-old workbenches. “I showed up to my parents’ house with these three huge benches, and they were super mad at me,” he remembers. “But 30 minutes later my dad was already obsessed—sanding the hell out of them.”
READ MORE: Paredes Was Just Named a Finalist in Our Designers of the Year Competition
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