01 September 2007

Fluid And Flexible

Written by Published in Issue 5 - Fear No Boundaries Read 2354 times

From walls that turn into windows to lacquered cabinets with permanent reflections, Sublime explores the brave new world of 21st-century transparency.

Traditional boundaries are disappearing. As work and leisure time become more fluid, generational boundaries dissolve and what’s real and virtual merge, we’re demanding more flexible lives.


We change jobs more frequently and we want more flexibility from our working hours. We want stores and services that are open and available when it suits us. Increasingly we’d rather rent than own, in order to preserve our mobile lives and sense of freedom.


The physical manifestation of this demand for flexibility is a more fluid sense of design. ‘Disappearance materials’ are on the rise; buildings are becoming more amorphous; interiors and furniture are taking on a new translucency; even graphics and animation are changing from fast-edit action to a more elegant and flowing pace, mirroring the elusive nature of our now boundary-less world.


Some of the latest designs to reflect the trend for flexibility, shape-shifting and all things fluid challenge our preconceptions of solidity and opacity, creating a second-take aesthetic.




Found, the new interiors range from Swedish design collective Front, features a gravity-defying chest of drawers, a sideboard with a constantly moving pixellated surface and the Reflection cupboard, which looks like any other lacquered piece of furniture until you realise the reflection in the glossy surface is impregnated into the paint.


Dissolving the boundaries between the real and imagined, you’re no longer seeing the room that’s surrounding you but a window on to another world altogether. Zaha Hadid perhaps best sums up the current mood for fluidity and other-worldliness in architecture and especially in her interior designs. With over forty buildings currently under construction worldwide and an exhibition at London’s Design Museum (until 25 November) the demand for all things Hadid underlines a growing international desire for uninterrupted lines and seamless detail. The voluptuous, flowing forms of Hadid’s most recent architectural work – such as the London Aquatic Centre, which resembles a giant, shell-like wave – is further explored in design work for the likes of British interiors firm Established & Sons. Sculptural creations such as the Aqua table and this year’s Seamless collection, shown at the Milan furniture fair, create a gravity-defying graceful tension. Hadid’s recent Flow vases for Italian interiors brand Serralunga and a mobile exhibition concept for the fashion house Chanel are imbued with a similar sensuality.




Hadid’s creations have only recently become reality through advances in technology and in particular new building materials. Blaine Brownell of Transstudio, an organisation promoting innovative design materials, notes the rapid advancement of what are called disappearance materials.


Look around, says Brownell, and you’ll notice the increased transparency of our physical environment. Light-transmitting concrete, air glass, transparent aluminium; the surfaces that surround us are getting lighter and stronger. With Nanogel – pellets of nanoporous material with super-efficient thermal insulation and light transmission qualities – walls can literally become windows. The inside/outside flexibility created by materials like Nanogel physically reflects, says Brownell, our increasing desire for transparency and accountability when it comes to dealing with big business and government....

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