Less than 10 percent of the billions of tons of plastic ever produced has been recycled, with much of it winding up in the Earth's oceans where the plastic disrupts ecosystems and releases toxic chemicals. In response, researchers led by Neri Oxman of MIT’s Mediated Matter Group, which focuses on “nature-inspired design and design-inspired nature,” have devised a new materials that they say, in somewhat biblical terms, go “from water to water.” The substances include a structure made of biocomposite skins derived from cellulose, chitosan, and pectin, some of the most abundant biopolymers on earth, in everything from tree branches to insect exoskeletons to common fruits to human bones. The researchers have put these new composites to the test in a 16-foot-tall pavilion named Aguahoja I (literally, water-sheet in Spanish), the culmination of six years of intense research into material science and robotic fabrication. Panels, comprising a top layer of chitosan and cellulose with a bottom layer of apple pectin and chitosan, were 3D-printed in various compositions to affect their rigidity and strength, color and color-changing abilities, transparency, and responses to heat and humidity, as well as their load-bearing abilities. This means, according to the lab, that the materials are functionally "programmable." Because of this variability, a variety of facade or load-bearing structural components can be generated from the same process, and the size is limited only by that of the printer. This “water-based digital fabrication” is intended to create a situation in which form, function, and fabrication are more closely linked, working in a way that mimics how the natural world designs itself; the result is “a continuous construction modeled after human skin—with regions that serve as structure, window, and environmental filter,” said the lab. In a display at the MIT Media Lab, the pavilion was shown along with a library of materials with various colors, shades, and structural properties, and an array of custom hardware, software, and wetware. The pavilion has been acquired by SFMOMA for its permanent collection, and a second version, Aguahoja II, will appear in the Cooper Hewitt’s design triennial, themed “Nature,” which opens next month. When structures made of these materials have run their course, the materials can be dissolved in water, returning natural materials to the environment with relatively little harm or disruption, much like any organic object in a naturally occurring ecosystem that decays and returns to be reused by the life that relies on it. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit techplusexpo.com/nyc/.
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Four standout installations from Milan Design Week 2019
A series of unusual and experimental architectural installations at Milan Design Week 2019 and Salone del Mobile allows visitors the chance to get inside the minds of radical architects, designers, and artists from around the world. These pieces, made in collaboration with prominent Italian brands and historic venues, showcase not only great work by emerging design professionals and veteran acts, but also give attention to pressing themes facing humanity today, such as climate change and life in the ever-evolving digital age. Some of the projects simply bring beauty to the forefront, reminding visitors to look for inspiration in eclectic design. Check out some of AN's favorite installations from the massive design event on AN Interior.
Two major players in art and design fabrication are merging into one powerhouse. UAP (Urban Art Projects) announced this week that it is acquiring the near 50-year-old, New York-based Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. The merger, according to a press release, will give both businesses a stronger geographical foothold and connect them to more artists, architects, designers, and developers. Together, both mainstay institutions have over 70 years of experience with the fabrication of fine arts and architectural projects. UAP, a global firm with 8 satellite offices, helps clients deliver bespoke structural art and design pieces for public and private use. The New York team has recently collaborated with Kohn Pederson Fox on the newly-opened 10 Hudson Yards, the Public Art Fund on the 2017 exhibition Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, as well as SHoP Architects, and the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Polich Tallix, established in 1968, has worked on public art projects with prominent artists like Louise Bourgeois, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, and Richard Serra. The company has also worked alongside major architectural studios such as Zaha Hadid Architects, John Portman & Associates, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, and Herzog & de Meuron to produce special art pieces for building projects. UAP’s Group Managing Director Matthew Tobin noted the importance of the acquisition. “UAP’s global reach, collaborative vision, and investment in advanced manufacturing and design robotics,” he said, “combined with Polich Tallix’s unmatched knowledge of traditional manufacturing, makes us a strong, dynamic and highly responsive art and design resource for world-class creatives.” Dick Polich, founder of Polich Tallix, expressed a similar sentiment: “Our greatest asset is the skill of our craftspeople and by joining forces, our firms have boldly expanded our capabilities and expertise.” A previous version of this article said that Polich Tallix's facility would be moving, however, we have since learned that is not the case.
Online architecture representation platform KooZA/rch and multidisciplinary collective (ab)Normal put together a colorful installation at the 2019 Salone del Mobile in Milan. Titled MICRO TOOLS: THE INVISIBLE SYNAPSE, the micro-exhibition asked a bunch of designers to display a compact set of objects or memory "tools" that inspired them. Read the full article with all the images on aninteriormag.com.
Hey Child Stay Wild
A/D/O capsule exhibit surveys the recent "cute" design trend
While much of the furniture design industry spent the past ten years playing it safe with a restrained, minimalist approach, a new expressive style has emerged from within its margins. During this period, a vanguard of up-and-coming and established designers broke away from the norm and started reevaluating the fundamentals of form and function. They began playing around with proportion and anthropomorphic details. All of a sudden, a new slew of limited edition chairs and tables were sporting swollen legs, rounded feet, and even animalistic facial features. On view at A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, until March 28, Neotenic Design is a capsule group exhibition that surveys this trend. Curated by A/D/O members Justin Donnelly and Monling Lee of design studio JUMBO, the showcase identifies the movement as having close affinities with childlike physical features and the vivid emotional responses that association elicits. As humans, we are inherently drawn to objects with characteristics that resemble these human traits: big eyes, round heads, chubby cheeks, and pudgy extremities. Scientists have proven that our brains respond well to these features as it brings out our instinctual need to nurture and provide affection for less self-sufficient beings. Exhibiting designers and brands—like Pierre Yovanovitch, Konstantin Grcic, Jaime Hayon, Faye Toogood, Sylvain Willenz, Chris Wolston, and Moroso, among others—have tapped into the potential of this emotive trend. There’s nuance in how this diverse group of European and American talents has employed neoteny—the retention of juvenile features—but on the whole, neotenic furniture and lighting design includes three primary traits: thickened forms; soft or rounded terminations; and the use of mono-materials. Ironically, this approach is not new and harkens back to ancient form making. What remains poignant, however, is how this recent trend asks us to reconsider the role of everyday objects; if they’re more childlike in characteristics, we might better find comfort in our domestic spaces.
Last night we celebrated the top talent in the industry at New York's A&D Building. Our sister publication's March issue, AN Interior, debuted the second annual AN Interior Top 50, a list of the best designers and architects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With good company and good food, showrooms like Poliform, Thermador, Viking, and other kitchen and bath showrooms hosted talks with representatives from the Top 50 firms. The bash also marked the launch of AN Interior's new website. Architects like Andrés Jaque of Office for Political Innovation, and Adam Snow Frampton and Karolina Czeczek of Only If discussed topics ranging from their companies' founding to the culture of kitchens and gathering. Meanwhile, guests were invited to feast on scrumptious finger food while they perused the latest high-tech appliances, luxury bathtubs, and long-lasting surfaces.
We would like to thank you, our readers, for showing up and celebrating with us. Commemorate the night and take it in again with photos of you, our favorite architects and designers, and, of course, us. We also invite you to revel at the new home for AN Interior in the digisphere on aninteriormag.com and the accompanying Instagram, @aninteriormag.
We enjoyed celebrating AN Interior 50 at the @ornareoficial NYC Showroom last night! Thank you AN Interior + @archpaper for the honor! See the full list of 2019 honorees here https://t.co/JnfYRUGOPq pic.twitter.com/WAYDv55mxB— Jaklitsch Gardner (@JGArchitects) March 8, 2019
We are excited to announce AN Interior’s second annual top 50 list of interior architects and designers on our brand new website, aninteriormag.com. Click here to visit the new website and see the list. The AN Interior 50 features the most talented architects and designers transforming interior spaces. These emerging and established firms from all corners of the United States demonstrate novel and exciting approaches that push the envelope in how we inhabit residential, hospitality, retail, and work spaces. AN Interior is a design and culture magazine that examines the vanguard in architect-designed interiors, furniture, and objects. The magazine—a sister publication of The Architect’s Newspaper—is a leader in covering the latest developments in the architecture and design worlds, with a focus on where they intersect. Our expertly curated, smart coverage of the most experimental, unique, and refined projects is a must-read for our audience of knowledgable design enthusiasts. The new site will be the home to our best interior and design content, where you can find a carefully curated selection of the best design today.
A monumental sculpture symbolizing the love and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King will be erected in the historic Boston Common sometime in 2020, according to The Boston Globe. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, The Embrace was chosen from a pool of impressive works honoring the beloved civil rights leaders; the 22-foot-high pair of clasped bronze arms rose above the fold. King Boston, the organization behind the memorial project, announced the winning design yesterday. Cochairman Paul English told The Globe the decision was near unanimous—both the art committee and the members of the public who viewed the proposal on display at various locations around town, agreed it should be built. “The committee was really moved by it,” English said. “They thought it was iconic. People would come to see it and take pictures and share it. You could imagine people hugging each other next to it.” Not only did the selection committee and thousands of Bostonians consider The Embrace a moving work of art, the design would also be much less expensive and easier to construct than the other five finalists. Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates’ collaboration with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt would have brought an elongated steel walkway—part of which was cantilevered—into the park. Walter Hood’s project with Wodiczko + Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects, The Ripple Effects, would have also significantly altered the landscape with a large, public plaza and terraced field. The Embrace is reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean) in Chicago's Millennium Park. People will be able to walk beneath the interlocked arms and gather in the public spaces surrounding the piece. It also provides a literal point of reflection for visitors and exists as a stand-alone sculpture that surprises but doesn’t overwhelm. According to a statement by King Boston, the sculpture and landscape call people toward empathy and action. ”Is there a more radical act of justice than love?” said Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “The choice to love your neighbor, to love someone that is not yourself, to go into a community and act is the foundational seed of social justice. To us, there was no better way to honor the Kings’ legacy and advance collective action.” With such community support and government backing—Boston’s City Hall has already greenlighted the project, according to English—the group expects the project to be built fairly quickly. It’s likely to rise in conjunction with an already-planned restoration of Boston Common, reported The Globe. The nonprofit aims to raise up to $12 million for sculpture, which is likely to cost between $3 and $4 million. Some of the money raised will go toward the new King Center for Economic Justice in Roxbury, Massachusetts, as well as the local congregation of Twelfth Baptist Church where Dr. King preached and the couple first met. King Boston also plans to fund a 25-minute documentary on their love story and lives in Boston during the early 1950s. So far, $6 million have been raised.
In the Round
OFFICE and Pieter Vermeersch debut spheroidic furniture collection inspired by Solo House II
Belgian artist Pieter Vermeersch and architecture studio OFFICE Kersten Geers David Severen have partnered on numerous projects. Most notably, the celebrated installation artist carried out a series of gradient wall paintings on the roof of the experimental firm’s 2017 project, Solo House II. Culminating this particular collaboration is a new capsule furniture assemblage debuting at Brussels’s Maniera Gallery, now on view through May 4. Comprised of a kinetic room divider, a graphical table, a cylindrical floor lamp, and a metal-mesh sofa, the new collectible design collection draws direct inspiration from the architecture of the iconic project. Perched on an isolated plateau in Spain’s Matarraña forest, the 360-degree, circular Solo House II follows modernists principles, such as the blending of indoor and outdoor space. Between two monolithic slab profiles that function as a base and roof, thin columns and glass walls delineate porous interiors. Geometric volumes are strategically placed on both levels to hide utilities. The new furniture collection echoes the building’s spheroid aesthetic. The semi-circular and semi-transparent Perimeter Room Divider is made up of polystyrol mirror slates, clad in a beige-pink gradient. Loosely anchored on an aluminum rail, the screen can transform from a gradient spectrum into a reflective surface. This same iridescent quality is evident in the totemic Light Post floor lamp. While circles and squares form the structure of the Solo and Round tables, Vermeersch’s painterly interventions are evident in the patina of the pieces’ Bianco Neve marble tops. The organically-shaped Divan 2p sofa and Fauteuil 1.5P lounge chair evoke the rugged nature of Solo House II's arid surroundings. Within the gallery space, the combined set-design of these similar yet distinct pieces strike an impressive pose. Like the house it references, the collection's bright color tones soften its minimalistic presence. At its core, the assemblage and exhibition reveal how art, architecture, and design can transcend and hold equal footing. Beyond traditional definitions, the exploration of archetypical shape is what matter most for both Vermeersch and OFFICE. This interdisciplinary methodology is apparent in their respective practices. Whereas the former addresses space in his art, the later often approaches architecture with an object-centric point of view. For OFFICE, furniture operates on an intermediate scale, between architecture and the human being; the body and city. The showcase also features work by major Dutch architectural photography Bas Princen, OFFICE’s longtime collaborator. The 2012 Mosques in the Nile Valley series captures the interplay of fluorescent lights on monolithic buildings at night. The photos resemble Suprematist compositions—an aesthetic also evoked in the furniture collection.
Kumbaya My Light
Lambert & Fils launches its new Corridor gallery space in Montreal
Young Montreal lighting brand Lambert & Fils has gained recognition in the past few years with a series of blockbuster lighting collections that have broken away from the norms that have stagnated the lighting industry in the past few years. Notable designs include the airport-inspired Dorval series, developed with French studio SCMP. The boutique design house has also developed a series of lauded private and retail interiors. Building on this success, Lambert & Fils has just opened a new exhibition annex adjacent to its office and workshop. Located in the heart of Montreal, Corridor promises to become a new space for cultural exchange. The gallery will feature art and design, and will explore where these often-siloed disciplines intersect. To launch the new space, Lambert & Fils tapped Swiss designer Adrien Rovero to create a special, temporary installation. The Feu de Camp mise-en-scene draws inspiration from Rovero's short time in the boy scouts but also from Montreal’s long and cold winters. The installation incorporates various geometric forms, flashlight-inspired fixtures, and simple industrial materials—green tubes, elastics, electrical wires, and semi-spherical glass diffusers—loosely in the form of a campfire as a way to bring people together during the dreary late-winter season. The installation is arranged around a central node with 12 low-lying lamps surrounding in a circle. These elements were used sparingly to compose a playful yet technically-refined setup, and Rovero also created a wall mural that illustrates this peculiar typology in his unique assemblage-inspired aesthetic. Though this inaugural installation closes tomorrow, Corridor will open the new Studio Edition exhibition—a group show featuring work by emerging Canadian designers—in the coming months.
Italian architect, designer, and two-time editor-in-chief of Domus Alessandro Mendini has passed away at the age of 87. Mendini was born in Milan in 1931 and was a key figure in the resurgence of Italian design after World War II. Mendini founded Atelier Mendini in 1987 with his brother and collaborator Francesco, and they achieved international acclaim for their work with Swatch, Cartier, and other companies. Known as a sculptor, painter, architect, journalist, and designer of furniture, products, and interiors, Mendini was lauded for his playful use of color and sense of proportion. His talent eventually led to collaborations with both domestic Italian designers and large multinational firms, such as Supreme in 2016. Mendini was awarded the European Prize for Architecture in 2014, as well as the 2003 Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana and the 2006 Villegiature Award. Mendini’s interests extended to architecture as well, and as Domus noted in his biography, he “designed the Groninger Museum (1988-1994, 2010) the Alessi factories and the Omegna Museum-Forum (1996), the Teatrino della Bicchieraia in Arezzo (1998), the urban regeneration of the Maghetti district in Lugano (1998), the renovation of the Termini Station in Rome (1999), the restoration of the Villa Comunale (1999) and three stations in the Naples underground network (2000), as well as the new exhibition space and the new branch of the Milan Triennale in Incheon, South Korea (2008-2009).”
Bacteria often evoke a destructive image, with connotations of decay and illness. But like all living communities, as much as they consume, they also create (or, perhaps more accurately, excrete). And it's this creative power that London-based architectural researcher Bastian Beyer is harnessing in his “Column Project.” With designer Daniel Suarez, Beyer has created solid, structural forms from microbe-suffused textiles as a more sustainable, biodegradable alternative to carbon-intensive materials. The project's central innovation is a dual-use apparatus that combines a loom and a so-called bioreactor. Woven jute (tested in many patterns and weights) acts as a host for a whole environment of sprayed-on microorganisms—a microbiome—clinging to the textiles. The introduction of calcium chloride and urea spurs the sporosarcina pasteurii bacteria to action, catalyzing their production of a calcite structure that alters the underlying fibers and solidifies the knit matrix over about three days. “These microbiomes are in constant (biological) exchange with their environment which varies in their activity depending on external and internal conditions,” said Beyer, speaking of the ways the environment, bacteria, and material interact. While the textile structure doesn’t have the strength of materials like carbon fiber or fiberglass, it still stands solid and can be used for “spatial dividers, shading features, reinforcement, and potentially even structural roof or wall systems,” according to Beyer. Given its unique biologically-focused design, there’s also the hope that it might be a self-repairing technology. Somewhat cryptically, or poetically, depending on your disposition, Beyer said that “the project can be understood as an architectural mediator of a multi-actor fabrication process, allowing the interdependent inputs from the digital, the microbiological as well as the human body to merge into one co-creating entity.” It collapses distinctions of biology and technology, of craft and natural processes. The project, which won a 2018 Autodesk ACADIA Emerging Research Award, is part of the broader ArcInTex initiative, a European program that supports explorations across the intersections of “architecture, interaction design, and textiles.”