What is the value of materiality? As we’re heading further and further into a data-dictated landscape where people are constructing identities, dialogues, site maps and shop fronts through virtual reality networks, are designers left in a precarious position? Tony Chambers, Editor-in-Chief at Wallpaper* Magazine seeks to prove otherwise in an unprecedented auction of items hailing from the post-war landscape right up until the present day. Living in a Material World takes place at Sotheby’s, London, on 17 October, raising questions about how practitioners have taken specific materials to craft innovative and pioneering solutions to everyday life, bringing cultural expression into the domestic realm.
Chambers notes: “As our lives become increasingly governed by the digital world, we have subsequently become more appreciative and sensitive to the analogue. We now crave the touch, the feel, even the smell of the material world. This is the perfect time to explore how post-war and contemporary designers have employed and manipulated all manner of materials in elegant and innovative ways.”
Not only does the showcase promise to argue the case for the art of “making”, it also sets up interesting dialogues about the next stages of development for contemporary designers, looking at using new technologies as a mode through which to manipulate traditional materials such as marble and resin. One example of this is Joris Laarman’s Rocker Armchair (2007), which looks at translating science into functional and beautiful objects. Inspired by the “underlying codes” which appear in nature, Laarman calls upon the advancements in 3-D printing and mathematical algorithm to replicate the strength and stability of the human bone.
Another item which calls upon a marriage between science and craft is Ron Arad’s All Night Long, a table which uses honeycomb paper and carbon fibre to be as light as it is strong – able to support the weight of a car. A similarly intriguing case is made in his Void series, chairs that combine vacuum technology with a “tinting” process. The end result creates an argument for a place where sculpture and design meet, perhaps building upon the enduring embers of William Morris’ Aesthetic revolution, whilst making a strong case for the role of material within the everyday – an element of design that still has possibilities, still fascinates and perplexes and still holds a sensory value within today’s climate.
Other works on display include Marc Newson’s Extruded Table (2008) and Thomas Heatherwick’s Keep Off the Glass Chair (2004). Living in a Material World takes place on 17 October at Sotheby’s, London. For more information: www.wallpaper.com
1. Extruded Table 3 by Marc Newson (2008). Courtesy of Wallpaper*