Themes/ Materials: Testing, expanding and re-imaging 3D design

Langa introduces us to some innovative designer/makers who explore and experiment with materials and scale, technologies, expectations or experiences.

“I always wanted to make things, and now I can express ideas in real projects at real scale. Thomas Heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick refused to conform to conventional ways right from a young age. He was ambitious and determined to build a temporary building – a pavilion – for his third-year project despite his tutors telling him to just build a model

Fast forward time, 20 years from when he graduated from a 3D Design degree to now – Thomas Heatherwick is a polymath and visionary, reigning in the fields of architecture, infrastructure, and sculpture.

In Spring 2018, I had an opportunity to meet this designer. Studying 3D Design at university myself, I bumped into Thomas Heatherwick outside his studio in King’s Cross. He invited me in and gave me a tour of the different departments in the studio. He was very down to earth and introduced me to some of the team then talked me through their projects, past and present. I felt encouraged by how they experimented with different materials for building physical models in their studio workshop. It gave me a feel for the potential of materials.

Credit: Atrium vault, The Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, HeatherwickStudio. Photograph, Iwan Baan.

Looking back at the visit, Thomas Heatherwick had the right to not let me into his studio but he didn’t say ‘no’, despite the fact that he was busy working on major projects.

I hope this reflection about my experience demonstrates that it’s good to take up opportunities that present themselves in the moment. It has taught me to be bold and take chances and I will continue to do this in my own creative practice.

Below are a few examples of other designers/makers and artists who have gone against the norm and have inspired me.

Es Devlin Studio: Storytelling- Design

We all enjoy great stories that empower us as individuals and that enable us to imagine infinite space in our minds! Es Devlin draws inspiration from the power of storytelling- be that from her own up-bringing and interests in theatre and performance or through research using maths and science.

Series of images showing sketches and interior shots of Es Devlin's UK Pavilion Dubai Expo 2020

Credit: Gif featuring sketch design and interior shots of UK Pavilion Dubai Expo 2020 Es Devlin Studio. Feature image to article, set design for The Weeknd at Coachella featuring mapped projection.

The spaces she designs are sometimes called ‘narrative environments’ where, as an audience member you can experience ‘your own version the story’ unfold by interacting with or experiencing Es’ work. Her projects tend to be both physical and virtual and include music concerts, operas, theatre and exhibitions. Next year, Es Devlin’s design for the Dubai Expo 2020 will come to life. It’s an Interactive Poem Pavilion to which over 25 million people will be able to contribute. The poems will be generated with the use of Artificial Intelligence! Find out more about the project on the studio’s website

Watch Es’ ‘It’s Nice That’ talk in which she discusses her creative process and the importance of the digital age for her work

Joris Laarman Lab: Technology: 3D Materials and techniques

“We live in a fascinating time. An ordinary person has access to more information today than any world leader or noble prize winner ever had in the past. We are children of a time of transition: one foot in the industrial era and the other in the digital era and who knows, we may even get to experience the biotech era in which we might all stay young forever.” Joris Laarman.

When the experts are in disbelief and telling you your ‘settings’ are wrong for the idea you’re working on, what do you say? Well, Joris Laarman would say it’s only through endless trials and refining with the wrong settings that one breaks through to find the right conditions.

Credit: Video of ‘Butterfly Screen’ (2016) in production using 3D printing at a large and unexplored scale.

Joris Laarman spends most of his time researching new technologies being developed at universities and research institutes in order to make 3D work. Some of the technology his lab uses is 10 years ahead of manufacturing techniques.

Find out more about Joris’ fascinating work in 3D on his website

In 2013, designer and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits gave a TED talk on 4D Printing This implies that we may be able to programme the printing of materials that transform over time. Imagine a construction site with no workers or buying a piece of furniture that assembles itself!

Timothy Information Limited: Jewellery

Timothy information Limited is the alter ego of Tim Carson, the Punk Jeweller.  He challenges our perception of ‘value’ and conventional jewellery through his work.

Credit: ‘Demonstration,’ a series of jewellery pieces by Timothy Information Limited. Photograph, Simon Armitt.

Unlike many other jewellers, he uses performance art to test and develop ideas as well as introduce final pieces, drawing inspiration from the punk culture and satire. I had a chance of attending a lecture of his at university which I highly recommend if you get the chance.  

Tim is part of Dialogue Collective, a group of creatives who are finding ‘new ways of bring contemporary jewellery and objects to a wider audience’

Milan Tarasca: Sound, sculpture and performance

Milan Tarasca is gifted musically and visually. He uses his knowledge of sound to create soundscapes and makes sculptures for different channels within those soundscapes. Each sculpture has its own individual character.

Credit: Still from ‘Propositions for waiting for the future’, Exhibition laboratory, Helsinki, 2017. Work in collaboration with: Flora Bouteille, Samuli Tanner and Gregoire Rousseau.

Some of Milan’s work like ‘Proposition For Waiting For the Future’ reminds me of Luigi Russolo’s experimental musical instruments; producing sounds like, crackling, gurgling, buzzing, splashes, screams. I don’t know anything about polyphonic sounds (where two lines of sound come together) but seeing Milan do the whole performance, it took me on a journey through time and space. EExplore more of Milan’s work on his website

Explore more of Milan’s work on his website

Follow Milan on Instagram

Advisory note: Some of the artists featured in this article deal with adult language or imagery.

Interested in making work in 3D?

BA (Hons) Ceramic Design

BA (Hons) Product Design

BA (Hons) Jewellery Design

BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design

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