In September 2017, Dutch designer Joris Laarman debuted his first major exhibition in the U.S., titled “Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age,” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Laarman received critical acclaim from art purveyors and media outlets like The New York Times. His exhibit pioneers a distinctive take on a common household object: the chair.
But unlike most chairs made from plastic, wood, and metal, the chairs in this exhibit are designed using algorithms found in nature and are made mostly by robots. For example, the iconic 2006 “Bone Chair” is made from marrying algorithms, software, and aluminum.
“Our digital age makes it possible to not just use nature as a stylistic reference, but to actually use the underlying principles to generate shapes just like an evolutionary process,” writes Laarman.
New York Times writer Joseph Giovannini likened the technological breakthrough of the “Bone Chair” to Ray Eames’s 1940’s “potato chip” chair, which “defined midcentury Modernism and endures today as a classic.”
However, unlike Eames, Dutch designer Laarman unites natural design with industrial design while leaving room for individualization. Instead of programming an army of mass-produced chairs, Laarman could feasibly create thousands of one-of-a-kind “bone chairs,” other furniture, and even 3-D bridges made by fastidious metal printers.
3-D digital printers can be traced back to 1986, but the Joris Laarman Lab’s approach to them differs in that he created gravity-resistant resin and a printing system that utilizes walking robots and nozzles to print objects in layers from anywhere on the production floor. Now the promising art lab has also branched into MX3D, a robotics company taking on molten-metal projects for a walking bridge in Amsterdam that should be completed in 2018.
Whether exhibit-goers are looking for a rare living-room chair inspired by human tissue or wanting to be awestruck by the future of architectural 3-D printing, “Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age” is a must-see.