Friday, February 24, 2012

The self-repairing shoe

This shoe is an early exploration by Michael Wihart into combining biotechnology with everyday products. He has turned the heel into something truly functional by implementing special cells inside of it, called protocells. When the sole gets damaged over time, these cells will flow towards the damaged parts, and solidify in place in order to repair the sole.

So the shoe is actually turning into a biological, almost alive entity. The developer has emphasized this through the quite radical contraption that was clearly meant to provoke rather than sell itself. It also reminds us of the work of fashion designers Hussein Chalayan and Kei Kagami, who often make their wearable creations into not just a surface around the skin, but a mechanical extension of the human body. These may not be the most comfortable to wear, but they do help shift our perspectives in making us ready for a very dynamic and alive world. Because in the future, our products will not get replaced any longer; they will grow along with us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scripted spatial complexity

Complexity is the new minimalism, and more is the new less. Many mature minds today have gotten reasonably used to the complexity and interconnectedness of the world, and we no longer need our technological creations to exude simplicity and purity so that we can let our mind have some breathing space. We are more and more skilled at having our senses flooded while mentally staying at a comfortable level. Now we are ready to bring an intelligent complexity into the physical environment we live in.

More and more, products, graphics, and architecture is created that is fueled by the urge for created complexity. Often, these things borrow heavily from nature, which shows through in the outer form. Those things can impress us because they are new, and they look natural while being man-made. But once you're over that shock it tends to seem very natural that we would build things that way. The machine age we created after the second industrial revolution allowed humanity to quickly set up healthy, thriving, functional societies, but they tore us away from nature. In the sixties and seventies we massively returned to nature, and now we are integrating the world of nature and the world of the machine. We are now getting used to that new way of building, and we need lots of exploration.

One of the pioneers in this area who are making this into a career is Marc Fornes, and it is his work that triggered me to write a bit about complexity. He uses scripts to generate architectural forms, and has been displaying these constructions in the form of small spaces that people can walk through. It is interesting that Marc Fornes is creating his own design language through his work, and is not simply mimicking nature or strictly using natural principles. Instead, he seems to be mixing natural elements and human preferences, for example in his material use and form language.

Now it's time for designers to follow people like Marc Fornes, and bring in complexity in forms where we can, and even more so when we can intelligently merge form with function this way. But also visual complexity alone can greatly elevate people's experiences of products in that it takes them out of their minds, and into the world again.