Dallas Architect Russell Buchanan's Furniture and Sculpture

(Portrait by Allison V. Smith)

Text by Rebecca Sherman
Special thanks to Allison V. Smith for photography

Architect by day, craftsman by night . . . Russell Buchanan has been building a portfolio of cutting edge furniture and art for decades. One of Dallas's go-to modernist architects for a quarter of a century, Russell Buchanan has plenty of accolades, including the much-lauded redo of a mid-century modern masterpiece by Edward Durrell Stone that earned a National Trust for Historic Preservation award and landed in the pages of Architectural Digest.

Architect Russell Buchanan's sketchbook
(Photo by Allison V. Smith)

He may be best known for his architecture, but lately it's his unexpected ideas for furniture and art that have people talking. A serious off-hours furniture designer since grad school in the mid '80s, the fruits of his avocation have resulted in new recognition, including a one-man gallery show last fall, and the current DMA exhibit Formed/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present, which runs through January 2012.

Tuxedo Stool, by architect Russell Buchanan

(s)two Table(s) designed by architect Russell Buchanan

(s)tool, designed by architect Russell Buchanan

Architect Russell Buchanan has more than 100 pieces in various stages of design and completion. His award-winning 1992-designed Spring Table shares space with furniture by Verner Panton, Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi and others at the DMA show.

Ball Transfer Table designed by architect Russell Buchanan

Orbit Table, designed by architect Russell Buchanan

Architect Richard Buchanan's interest in furniture was sparked while attending grad school at the Architectural Association of London, where he met industrial designer, architect and artist Ron Arad.

"He was using raw materials like wire and concrete to make furniture, nothing polished or finished. He made me realize that as an architect I could design and build my own furniture," says Buchanan, who constructed his first piece, a bench based on the classic Red Blue Chair by Gerrit Rietveld, out of his duplex near SMU, as a young talent working for HKS Architects. Dozens of other furniture ideas soon filled his sketchbook.

Mishon Chair designed by architect Russell Buchanan

Grasshopper Screen designed by architect Russell Buchanan

"At that point in my career, I was working for someone else, creating their designs. Furniture was a way to design something myself and have it realized," says the 50-year-old architect, who launched his own firm in 1992 and married his wife Karen that same year.

Sculpture by architect Russell Buchanan
(Photo by Allison V. Smith)

As a sculptor, Buchanan often works in edgy mediums, such as air-filled packaging cushions encased in layers of marble emulsion, which were exhibited last November in a one-man show at Gallerie Urbane Dallas.

Sculpture created from modeling paste and plastic
packaging bags, by architect Russell Buchanan

In 1994, Russell Norton Buchanan, Inc., was formed as the furniture arm of Buchanan Architecture. You can buy one of his existing designs or commission something new.

Early on, the architect caught the eye of contemporary Dallas art collector Deedie Rose, who bought his Spring Table and has since commissioned him to design other pieces, including dozens of pieces of furniture to fill the guest house of her Ellis County ranch.

Electrical, works on paper by architect Russell Buchanan

Russell Buchanan strives to invent wholly original designs, using industrial materials not often employed in furniture. One of his newest pieces is a rectangular metal coffee table covered on five sides in ball transfer units, a type of conveyor system similar to what's used to move products on conveyor belts.

"What I'm most interested in is designing pieces that don't yet exist," he reveals. The glass-topped Spring Table's base is made from a semi-circle of hot rolled steel, which is steadied with steel guide wires and turnbuckles. A yellow wheel made from MDF allows the table to be mobile.

Archival digital ink (giclee) on paper
iPhone photographs of television monitor, by architect Russell Buchanan
Images digitally manipulated in Photoshop.

Architect Russell Buchanan, sketching
(Photo by Allison V. Smith)

Says Buchanan: "Architects have all gone to producing drawings on computer. We don't build models by hand anymore. Making furniture and sculpture helps fill the void."

To see more of Russell Buchanan's furniture and art, and for information on purchasing, go to Buchanan Architecture.

This story also appears on page 74 of the March 2011 edition of Modern Luxury.