Cardboard is shaped into diamonds, a lamp woven, concrete made mobile, wool folded and ceramics stabilised. Designers prove that you do not always need to reinvent the wheel to act in a sustainable manner. Sometimes it’s enough to interpret materials and shapes in a new way.
Young designers want to change the world. More and more, their ideas and designs revolve around ecological issues and possible solutions for the future. This conclusion could also be drawn from the results of this year’s Pure Talents Contest at imm cologne. There was also a focus once again on traditional, natural materials. Placed in a new context by the designers, the upgrade to ceramics and concrete, rattan or felt means that, all of a sudden, they no longer have the outdated appearance you might imagine.
It is obvious that the new generation of designers has quickly recognised that, along with the task of designing new products, they have a growing responsibility to the environment. Recycling, reusing and repurposing the products of our consumer society is one possible way in which more and more young designers want to impart ecological wisdom to their work. A very similar path is taken by designers who use conventional materials and present them in a new context. “Upgrading” in this way can result in innovative products based on natural and tried-and-tested materials.
When studying design, German designer Luisa Kahlfeldt (www.luisakahlfeldt.com), for example, spent time exploring the properties of cardboard and looking for ways to manipulate the everyday quality of the material and broaden its visual language. And her Cardboard Stool does indeed reveal the material’s surprisingly sensual qualities. “Every stool is created by rolling corrugated cardboard into elongated cylinders. Shaving down the edges reveals not only the individual layers of colour, but also the wave-like structure of the material”, said the native Berliner at imm cologne in 2016, describing her attempt to revalue a rather commonplace material. This process uncovers an inherent aesthetic quality of the material, which is normally not visible.
For his part, the Colombian designer Juan Cappa (www.juancappa.com) has long experimented with materials that are normally used in the production of baskets. His focus has been on traditional shapes, production methods and uses. This has resulted in the Basketlamp lighting range. As in traditional baskets, the lampshades feature repeated structures which form attractive patterns. The Basketlamp luminaires are suitable for use as table lamps, hallway lighting or ceiling lights; they each have a handle by which they can be carried or from which they may be suspended. Each Basketlamp can be packed flat and quickly reassembled thanks to its round woven structure and shaped top.
Often, traditional materials like ceramics are developed in new ways by young creatives. Products like those in the “Solid Spin Lamps Collection” are radically transforming our perception of materiality. While at first glance you assume the product to be made from enamelled metal, its moulded form and the appearance of the material on closer inspection actually put you in mind of something more robust. The collection from the Estonian designer Johanna Tammsalu (www.tammadesign.com) resulted from a series of experiments that she performed with everyday objects such as shoes, glasses and keys. “I was fascinated by the strength of solid shapes and decided to look for a new substance, by rotating objects on their own axis. I tested them in groups where they were placed on top of one another. This produced endless possibilities for revolutionary shapes with calming external features and a unique, individual character.”
Compared with this, the amorphous pouffes by Jule Waibel appear almost flimsy. In fact, folded structures are currently right on trend. But the designer from Stuttgart (www.julewaibel.com) uses not only the aesthetics but also the flexibility of folded structures to create entirely contemporary furniture: Unfolded Cones, a range of folded seats. In the process, she uses an age-old material – pure felted wool, shaped into its three-dimensional form by hot steam. A form that adapts itself to every sitting position thanks to its folded structure.
Dutch designer Emiel Remmelts (www.emielremmelts.nl) creates a kind of catalogue of different classic materials with his shelves. That is to say that, on one side, their frames are wholly reliant on concrete blocks, bricks, a glass vase and magazine files. Remmelts has also been inspired in this by the Russian architect, artist and designer El Lissitzky. The objects exhibited within the shelves create a dynamic composition, compiled according to the collage principle. Each creation is unique and imparts an individual aesthetic to the shelf.
Contemporary interior design also happily makes use of the classic material, concrete. In the creative hands of designer Katharina Eisenköck (www.katharinaeisenkoeck.com), the heavy material suddenly seems surprisingly light. Eisenköck likes to draw on old artisanal techniques to modify materials and redefine them for her lamps. The Nomadic Light luminaire radiate warm white LED light from a lightweight concrete base encompassed by a leather strap, reminiscent of a stirrup – and now the solid object becomes transportable. The fusion of the materials with induction charging technology transforms Nomadic Light into a multifunctional light fitting and a flexible 21st century companion.
It’s good to know that young designers are constantly reappraising the old with an open mind. These examples show that this can result not only in critical, but also intelligent and productive ways of handling design heritage. So there’s plenty of scope for future generations of designers…