After being cut, sanded and polished, these hitherto invisible materials belonging to the multi-layered history of London have been used to make four tables and a bookcase. Produced in collaboration with Beatrice Trussardi and Friedman Benda gallery in New York, the five pieces of furniture are presented at Fondazione Luigi Rovati in Milan during the Salone del Mobile. Significantly, the venue is a 17th-century palazzo that is going to be renovated into an Etruscan museum and cultural centre after the exhibition, bringing the idea of excavation full circle. The show is on the lower level, where the rawness of the exposed walls harmonises with Cocksedge 's collection.

“This work is an emotional response to how I have to leave my Hackney studio where I've spent the last decade and is about me trying to make sense of the situation,” explains Cocksedge, who began by carrying out scans of the foundations. “I wanted to dig into this boring grey floor and see what's been hiding there all these years.”

Exhibition view
A video on the wall gives an idea of the sweaty, dirty, labour-intensive process of turning the studio floor into an archaeological dig. “There was a lot of aggression – noise and water, cutting and drilling – and sleepless nights,” Cocksedge says. The apparition of a glimmering stone, like a glow, inspired him to push forward.

Various stones emerged, including flints and a dark red London brick from Victorian times – the markings indicate that it would have been used to stabilise horses' hooves, implying that the building would have once been a stables. These bricks have been combined with two other types of material to make two circular forms that have been been placed, one vertically and one horizontally, under a sheet of glass. Cocksedge titles this piece 'Double Core Table'.

Paul Cocksedge Core Shelf 2017 Concrete and glass 74.75 x 94.5 x 15.75 inches 190 x 240 x 40 cm
'Sliced Core Table' – a concave form made from slices of dozens of pieces – has the bricks at its centre. “I spent many hours just looking into holes because I knew I wanted to create a piece with depth,” says Cocksedge. “It was about looking into a table, down to the bottom, to get a sense of digging and exploring.” Its long cylinders are composed of six layers of sliced rings, yet the joints are only discernible upon close inspection. “Often in design you hide how things are joined,” says Cocksedge. “What's nice here is to show how things are joined.”

Meanwhile, 'Exploded Core Table' is made of two large circles that have each been cut into 12 pieces. The fourth table, 'OffCuts Table', is made of small, cut-off pieces suspended in glass and resin. “Every piece of the floor became really valuable and important,” remarks Cocksedge.

Paul Cocksedge, Sliced Core Table, 2017, Concrete brick and glass, 29 x 78.75 x 78.75 inches 74 x 200 x 200 cm
Paul Cocksedge, Sliced Core Table, 2017, Concrete brick and glass, 29 x 78.75 x 78.75 inches 74 x 200 x 200 cm
As Cocksedge's most personal and political project, it touches on how creatives get forced to move out of certain urban areas due to gentrification. “None of my work has touched politics closely but this one does because it's talking about how cities change,” says Cocksedge. “The spaces where creative people work tend to be these in-between spaces and there's always this potential to knock them down and build flats and housing.”

Cocksedge has one month and a half left in his studio and is still looking for a new one. Is his landlord aware that there are excavated rings all over the floor? “No,” he replies. “If you try and get permission for everything, it takes the fun out of from things. I had to do it! We just went for it. My studio manager was working in a hotel room with a plank of wood on a bed as a desk that we would gather round for meetings.”

The fact that Cocksedge embarked on the project without a client meant that he co-financed the project. But it also brought him an incredible sense of freedom. “There are so many times when you can become a showman, an actor, because you have to say the right thing as there's a brand or a company paying for stuff,” he says, regarding industrial design. “All these pieces here are because of an idea and the passion of my team.” Has it been a cathartic, soul-searching journey? “Yes, and now there's a calmness at the end of all this,” Cocksedge notes.

'Paul Cocksedge, Excavation: Evicted' is at Fondazione Luigi Rovati, Corso Venezia 52, Milan

Open daily, from 11am-9pm, until 9 April 2017


Paul Cocksedge Core Table 2017 Concrete and glass 18.5 x 47.25 x 47.25 inches 47 x 120 x 120 cm Prototype
Paul Cocksedge Double Core Table 2017 Concrete, brick and glass 28 x 78.75 x 39.5 inches 71 x 200 x 100 cm