At first glance, Dutch designer Dirk Vander Kooij’s Diffuser Cabinet resembles a 110cm-high Jenga Tower. Disguised as a visually intriguing, textural and seemingly random pile of wooden blocks, the tower actually serves as a multifunctional object for optimal acoustics and hidden storage.
There’s nothing random about the Diffuser Cabinet’s complex and highly calculated construction. Vander Kooij embarked on the journey to create the tiny run of just 10 pieces after he started studying the science of acoustic distribution and energy, discovering a mathematical equation called the Diffuser Principle. According to a certain arrangement, such structures optimize sound in any environment, and Vander Kooij was captivated.
“It’s really almost magical, that without consuming energy it’s providing you a better sound environment in your room,” he says. “I thought, ‘wow, why don’t we all have these in our rooms as much as possible?’ But of course, without a function besides the audio it’s hard to see it in a room.”
That’s where Vander Kooij’s serious design chops come in. Constantly working to improve upon and switch up standard practices of design—like building his own 3D printer to create furniture—and conceiving new ways to use leftover materials, he has forged an identity of resourcefulness that pushes past traditional boundaries. Here, he sculpted a beautiful diffuser and expanded it into a three-dimensional cabinet.
Adding the storage element introduced a new challenge in putting the whole puzzle together. Using longer beams instead of square blocks for aesthetics required the stack to switch directions on every layer, so the team came up with the right arrangement to maximize space and create drawers that alternate by row, and can be opened from both sides.
In the end, each piece is comprised of about 1,000 pieces of wood stacked together using dowel connections, wherein wooden cylinders are placed through drilled holes to joint the beams. The makeup of so much wood required something very sturdy, but not too heavy. “We came across tulip wood, which is used in pool tables,” says Vander Kooij. “They used it centuries ago, also, because it’s so stable, but it’s light. And it’s grown in Europe so that was nice that it was locally sourced.”
While serving its dual functions inconspicuously, the Diffuser Cabinet simply adds a playful vibe to the corner of a room. Not only does it look like the sophisticated, grandly sized iteration of a game, but for Vander Kooij, the process of its creation presented “the game of constructing it, and then going back to the drawing board to get the optimum result in this little puzzle.”
Images courtesy of Dirk Vander Kooij