Oct 13, 2017 | By Julia

Renowned experimental Dutch designer Joris Laarman has officially made his U.S. debut with a new 3D printed design exhibition and accompanying book. Featuring furniture generated by algorithms, a 3D printed steel bridge, and downloadable chairs, ‘Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age,’ aims to bring a futurist perspective to the Smithsonian Design Museum’s Cooper Hewitt space, where it will remain installed from September 27 through to January 15, 2018.

“When people see a robot they see a solution to a problem or even the problem itself. I see an instrument to create smart beauty,” says Laarman. ‘Smart beauty’ is certainly the operative term here, with Laarman’s exhibited pieces ranging from his iconic bone furniture to his newest venture: the Gradient Screen. The experimental sculptural work, which incorporates a collection of 3D printed, multi-material gradients of various geometries, was designed by Laarman and produced by Dutch 3D printing and robotics company MX3D.

Though the exquisite curves and organic-seeming forms of Laarman’s collection may call to mind historic art movements such as Art Nouveau or rococo, the pieces are not merely inspired by nature. Rather, Laarman’s designs are driven by the actual mathematical principles of our organic world; algorithms drawn from plants or multi-celled organisms are a common feature in the works. These algorithms are then realized through 3D printers, or in some cases, via 3D printing robots dreamed up by Laarman’s team. Finally, pieces are finished with a blend of artisanal and high-tech methods. Think binding exteriors with metals such as steel, copper, or nickel, alongside carefully handcrafted wood elements.

"The emphasis is on experimentation, and on looking to biology and physics for design inspiration," explains Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt. That experimentation spans both techniques Laarman’s team uses and the designer’s own creative influence. Throughout the exhibit, video installations explain first-hand how the unique pieces were constructed, showcasing the innovative techniques invented by Laarman’s studio. A visual timeline also accompanies the works, which Laarman uses to track technological advancements over time. The historical ebbs and flows of the stock market are displayed along an exhibit wall, along with technological innovations from the foreseeable future, such as the wide-spread of use driverless cars. As indicated on this creative timeline, the industrial age has already come and gone, while the digital age blasts off in all sorts of exciting new directions.

Much more than a visual guide, Laarman’s futurist timeline is symbolic of the Dutch designer’s overarching ethos. “Time and again I imagine myself 50 years from now and wonder what my future self would have wanted me to make,” says Laarman wistfully. “The advice from this future self will be of major importance to the further evolution of our work.” The designer adds that digital technology is changing our lives on virtually every level. “No one really knows how this next phase is going to happen,” he says, “but I think it may start a whole new wave of creativity.”

‘Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age’ will be exhibited at Cooper Hewitt until January 15, where it will move to The High Museum of Art in Atlanta (February 18-May 13), and then to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (June 17-September 9). Laarman’s updated book, ‘Joris Laarman Lab,’ will be out later this month from publisher August Editions.

 

 

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