Mr Big Stuff

Designer Joris laar­man takes 3D print­ing large

Wallpaper - - October -

Joris Laar­man 3D-prints a bridge

In 2003, Joris Laar­man – who had only just grad­u­ated from De­sign Academy Eind­hoven – re­de­fined one of the most mun­dane and over­looked house­hold ob­jects: the ra­di­a­tor. His cur­va­ceous de­sign con­sid­ered how heat is trans­mit­ted, but came with plenty of ro­coco-in­spired spin. When Wall­pa­per* mag­a­zine cel­e­brated its first ten years in 2006, the ‘Heat­wave’ ra­di­a­tor was in­cluded in our se­lec­tion of the decade’s most in­flu­en­tial de­signs. Eleven years on, the piece that sky­rock­eted Laar­man to de­sign star­dom re­mains one of the most mem­o­rable con­cepts in the field.

‘It was a com­plete re­think of the ra­di­a­tor, from ap­pear­ance to ef­fi­ciency,’ says Caro­line Bau­mann, di­rec­tor of New York’s Cooper He­witt de­sign mu­seum, which ac­quired a model in its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion in 2008. ‘It showed that or­na­ment can be in­her­ently func­tional, and chal­lenged the dogma of func­tion­al­ism with Baroque ex­u­ber­ance.’

This month, an ex­hi­bi­tion chron­i­cling Laar­man’s work to date will open at the»

Cooper He­witt, be­fore mov­ing on to the High Mu­seum in At­lanta and Hous­ton’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts.

The works on show of­fer a glimpse of Laar­man’s reach as a designer and a maker, but also as a thinker and an ex­plorer of imag­ined fu­tures. ‘I have a broad in­ter­est in the world,’ he says. ‘I am very much the au­thor of a cer­tain story about progress.’ His in­ter­ests in­clude fu­tur­ism and mod­ernism, eco­nom­ics, tech­no­log­i­cal progress, pre­dic­tions from sci­ence fic­tion movies of the past, as well as changes in global temperatures and stock mar­kets, which give him an idea of the pace of the world’s de­vel­op­ment. ‘I kind of surf the waves of in­no­va­tion and try to give them a face or form. The things I make are frozen mo­ments in this time­line.’ This process makes for a body of work with a wide range of vis­ual codes, usu­ally orig­i­nat­ing from man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­per­i­ments.

Laar­man launched his stu­dio in 2004 with his part­ner, film­maker Anita Star, dub­bing it a ‘lab’: ‘It’s a lab in the sense that we are not an in­dus­trial de­sign brand, we ex­per­i­ment like sci­en­tists to make stuff,’ he ex­plains.

‘The Lab is a hive of R&D ac­tiv­ity that brings to­gether engi­neers, crafts­peo­ple, de­sign­ers and pro­gram­mers to de­velop new skills, ma­te­ri­als and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies,’ adds Bau­mann. ‘It’s trans­form­ing our un­der­stand­ing of ma­te­ri­al­ity, push­ing the bound­aries of form, and even sur­pass­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion.’ Some of the lab’s cre­ations, such as the ‘Bone’ chair, have be­come de­sign icons. Launched in 2005, it marked the be­gin­ning of Laar­man’s love af­fair with dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion. The alu­minium chair (and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing se­ries, in­clud­ing a rocker – see our Sotheby’s auc­tion story, page 120) was pro­duced us­ing tech­nol­ogy that mim­ics the growth of a tree, or of bones in the hu­man body. It is de­signed through an al­go­rithm to use min­i­mal ma­te­rial, with a shape very much guided by the tech­nol­ogy, leav­ing an el­e­ment of sur­prise to the de­sign process.

An­other project that ex­em­pli­fies the breadth of Laar­man’s ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, and that will be in­cluded in the trav­el­ling show, is the Maker se­ries of fur­ni­ture. A sym­bio­sis be­tween crafts­man­ship and tech­nol­ogy, the

range started with a chair, com­posed of dig­i­tally fab­ri­cated wooden mod­u­lar parts. The project is based on the idea that any­one could pro­duce the fur­ni­ture us­ing a do­mes­tic 3D-print­ing ma­chine, or small con­sumer Cnc-milling tools (the code for the chair was pub­lished un­der a Cre­ative Com­mons li­cence so that it could be down­loaded by any­body).

‘Joris’ work has never ceased to de­velop,’ re­flects his New York gal­lerist Marc Benda, who has worked closely with Laar­man since 2005. ‘He has helped sub­stan­tially in bring­ing the prac­tice of con­tem­po­rary de­sign, es­pe­cially stu­dio work, into the 21st cen­tury.’ One key de­vel­op­ment, Benda notes, has been in the way Laar­man has har­nessed the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, grad­u­at­ing from rev­o­lu­tion­ary do­mes­tic de­sign projects to col­lab­o­rat­ing with ma­te­rial and build­ing spe­cial­ists on a mas­sive scale.

In 2014, Laar­man and Star set up a new com­pany, MX3D (stand­ing for Multi Axes 3D print­ing), with the in­ten­tion of tak­ing dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion to an in­dus­trial scale. ‘Right af­ter our first ex­per­i­ment with ro­bots and 3D print­ing,’ says Laar­man, re­fer­ring to the sculp­tural ‘Dragon’ bench cre­ated that year us­ing a metal 3D printer and a com­bined ro­bot/weld­ing ma­chine, ‘we were think­ing about how we could scale this up. The tech­nol­ogy was too good to be true, and too good to just keep as a tool to make the de­signs that I came up with. So we part­nered with peo­ple who cre­ate the soft­ware, who pro­vide the ma­te­ri­als, the weld­ing ma­chines and the ro­bots to es­tab­lish MX3D.’

Laar­man is work­ing on his largest MX3D project yet, the first (and prob­a­bly last, he jokes) piece of in­fras­truc­ture he has cre­ated. With his team, he is print­ing a bridge for the city of Am­s­ter­dam, to be com­pleted in sum­mer 2018. ‘We needed a poster project for the com­pany, so we thought of do­ing some­thing for Am­s­ter­dam, and what could be bet­ter than a bridge, since we are in a city full of bridges and wa­ter?’ In a ‘smart’ ap­proach to build­ing, the con­struc­tion hinges on just one ma­chine, which prints in a cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner, while the de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses are in­ter­wo­ven. When com­plete, the struc­ture may be fit­ted with sen­sors able to col­lect data ‘about the bridge or about the traf­fic’, adds Laar­man. The up­com­ing US ex­hi­bi­tions will show­case a 3D-printed scale model of the bridge, and a new piece, the ‘Gra­di­ent’ screen, cre­ated us­ing the same al­go­rithm. The shows will be ac­com­pa­nied by a new edi­tion of the book,

Joris Laar­man Lab (Au­gust Edi­tions), edited by Star, who has also cre­ated video con­tent for the ex­hi­bi­tions, of­fer­ing a be­hind-the-scenes peek into life at the lab.

The ex­hib­ited works only of­fer a glimpse of Laar­man’s po­ten­tial, ‘a sliver of the uni­verse that he is in the process of build­ing’, says Benda. ‘The fu­ture of any cre­ative prac­tice rests on what comes next, and in Laar­man’s case, there is a no­tice­able lack of time in his life: there is sim­ply not enough time in a life­time to do all the things he is set­ting out to do. That is a hall­mark of a great mind and a great prac­tice.’ ‘Joris Laar­man Lab: De­sign in the Dig­i­tal Age’, 27 Septem­ber 2017 – 15 Jan­uary 2018, Cooper He­witt, New York; coop­er­he­witt.org; joris­laar­man.com

dutch designer Joris laar­man at his mx3d work­shop, sit­ting on a sec­tion of the 3d-printed bridge he is build­ing for the city of am­s­ter­dam

Above, A sec­tion of the mx3d bridge. once com­pleted, the 3d-printed metal parts will be welded to­gether on site by ro­bot Arms

be­low, A ren­der­ing show­ing A top view of the curved, Asym­met­ric de­sign

left, A ren­der­ing of the bridge, A scale model of which will be on dis­play At the cooper he­witt

Above, A work in progress model of laar­man’s ‘gra­di­ent’ screen, which will Also be shown in new york, cre­ated us­ing the same Al­go­rithm As the bridge

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