Coral Lamp by Zuleika Penniman
2019. Room Divider.
Aluminum, stainless steel, zinc plated steel, Burma teak veneer on MDF, knotty oak veneer on MDF, Corian, woven
faux suede thread.
200 (W) x 4 (D) x 180 (H) cm (open size).
Limited edition series of 10.
Corals provide shelter and protection to twenty-five percent of all marine life. On land, the purpose they serve as a barrier continues. Created for Design Days Dubai 2016, the Coral I divider evokes the use of coral-rock historically in the construction of traditional dwellings in the UAE. Washed-up coral rocks were collected from the seashore for hundreds of years, to build walls by cutting and shaping them by hand into building bricks bound by a composite of seashells and gypsum. Hard corals are composed of colonies of single spineless animals, known as polyps. Each polyp protects itself by building a wall of calcium carbonate around its body. It is this build-up of walls that made the material so suitable for construction, as the calcium carbonate provided strength while the porosity reduced density and increased ventilation.
Readily available all along the coastline of the UAE, coral was chosen for its material properties rather than appearance. All the coral rocks used in Zuleika’s room divider have been repurposed from derelict buildings. They were buried behind mortar and plaster for decades, concealing the exquisite, delicate patterns inside each individual species of coral. In a triumphant example of where the surface becomes volume, the geometries that generate these distinct patterns also provide the corals with their tensile strength, which is what allowed the designer to cut them so narrowly that they are almost translucent. Each rock slice is clasped by engraved gold settings, handmade by goldsmiths in Deira. The shape of the settings echoes the intricate web of polyps held between them. The coral rock slivers are composed in the form of a wall while being treated like gemstones. Coral, found on the threshold between land and sea, has always served as a divider. Coral I brings these stories together.