×

Dutch design lab blends naturalistic and futuristic

  • This Sept. 28, 2017 photo provided by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, shows an Installation view of "Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age," in New York. (Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum via AP) Matt Flynn

  • This Sept. 28, 2017 photo provided by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, shows an Installation view of "Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age," in New York. (Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum via AP) Matt Flynn



Associated Press
Saturday, October 14, 2017

The first U.S. museum exhibit devoted solely to the experimental and futuristic work of Dutch design studio Joris Laarman Lab is now on view at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

The works – mainly furniture, along with an unusual radiator and a newly finished section of footbridge – tend to be curvy and organic in form, many resembling strange yet elegant life forms that have sprouted table legs and chair arms.

Laarman and his team of computer scientists, engineers and craftsmen seem at first glance to get their inspiration from the past, with designs reminiscent of Art Nouveau or even rococo. “Gradient Lounge” is a generously sized chaise with voluptuous curves 3-D-printed from polyamide nickel and copper, with matching upholstery, 3-D-knit of silk, mercerized cotton and Merino wool. “Bridge Table,” the sleek show-stopper of aluminum and tungsten carbide that greets visitors in the main part of the exhibit, resembles a smooth, silver-colored tree, with four trunk-like legs that separate into branches and extend to support a gleaming, flat surface.

But there’s nothing old-fashioned about these works.

They are not inspired by nature so much as designed using actual mathematical principles of nature – algorithms drawn from plants, say, or multi-celled organisms. These algorithms are used to design the works created using 3-D printers or, in the case of the footbridge, using 3-D-printing robots invented by the team. Then the pieces are finished using a combination of high-tech and artisanal methods, such as binding the exteriors with nickel, copper or steel, or handcrafting elements out of wood.

“The emphasis is on experimentation, and on looking to biology and physics for design inspiration,” explained Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt, who oversaw the exhibit.

Videos shown throughout the show help explain how the pieces were made and are crucial to understanding the works, since the techniques are so new, some of them only recently invented by the studio.

“When people saw our exhibit in Holland, they got very emotional, and some of them even cried. The future can feel like a very scary place,” said Laarman, a soft-spoken 37-year-old who was in New York for the opening of the show.

“Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age” will remain on view at the Cooper Hewitt through Jan. 15. It will then travel to The High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Feb. 18-May 13) and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (June 17-Sept. 9).