by Devanshi ShahSep 27, 2021
The innate physicality of an object is tied to its material properties. We often hear terms like ‘materiality’ used to describe the physical form of a design object. While it may allude to the material properties of the object, more often than not it refers to the object's ability to highlight its base material. Form making has evolved exponentially, with the developments and enhanced understanding of material technology. The capability of materials is constantly being tested, while research and development resources are dedicated to attempting new ways to enhance them to be more durable, sustainable and affordable. These developments are not driven by the knowledge of form making but by a more scientific approach. Vienna-based designer, Philipp Aduatz, relies on his knowledge and interest in material technology to create limited edition objects that are equal parts sculptural and practical.
Speaking with STIR, the designer says, “Since my school days, I have been drawn to natural sciences. Later, material research has always been of the highest interest to me. Throughout my doctoral dissertation, I learned the basic rules of chemistry and physics to get a deeper understanding of materials and their behaviour. Today I use my knowledge for the product development of my work but also for my part-time teaching at the New Design University in Austria. The application of new materials and technologies in design through material research is my strongest speciality”.
Aduatz’s process grows from an understanding of both traditional craft and contemporary fabrication techniques. Working with 3D printing, 3D laser scanning, CNC milling, and Rapid Prototyping, Aduatz looks at each iteration of his work as a unique experiment that studies the behaviour of different materials. Elaborating on this process, he adds, “A big part of my creative process is experimentation. I love to discover and explore materials in a playful way and often I start a project with an experimental approach. Another part of my work is science, some pieces start with a deeper theoretical concept, others with new fabrication technologies such as 3D concrete printing or laser scanning”.
It is not an experiment involving one material or fabrication process. It is changing interaction that is derived from Aduatz’s interest in physics and chemistry. While the approach may sound scientific, there is a poesy to his methodology. His aesthetical references range from historical data to modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the more contemporary sculptor, Tony Cragg. Thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, STIR looks through some of the Austrian designer's past experiments.
Created with glass fibre reinforced polymer, and finished with car paint, Dormeuse was an early project Aduatz conceptualised while at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in 2007. Deriving the form of the object from an anthropological study of the ‘culture of resting’, the curvilinear surfaces are designed to accommodate various sitting positions. In 2012, Aduatz took this exploration a step further as works titled Fauteuil I and II. In both these works, the design process started with a scaled clay model, which was then digitised with a 3D scanner. This digital data was used to create the actual model, which was then further sculpted by hand. This is where the material science comes in, the polystyrene was covered with plaster and prepared for lamination. Approximately 20 layers of fibreglass were used in combination with epoxy resin to obtain a thickness of about nine-mm. This is an incredibly thin yet sturdy frame. The finished object was digitised as well to produce the series.
In 2017, Aduatz created the Polymorph Chair handcrafted using cherrywood. The idea of this particular work comes from his reflection of the ongoing trend of organic design. Seeing a recourse of ideas and aesthetics that were popular in the 1940s and 1970s remerging made him question what one could define as new or innovative. The design vocabulary of the chair was visualised modelled on a computer, where the chair was sectioned into approximated layers. These layers were cut out by CNC-machining and stack laminated, before being carefully hand carved.
The Villarceau Table is based on a geometric concept deduced by the 19th century French astronomer, Yvon Villarceau. Here Aduatz looked at how the overlap of a design concept and scientific information would manifest aesthetically. Is there a difference between the patterns created by an artist and those inferred by a scientist? The table does not try to provide an answer, it creates new data.
Since 2018 Aduatz has been collaborating with Incremental3d, a concrete printing start-up from Austria. The fabrication technology in this case is used to realise the complex freeform designs by Aduatz. This particular 3D printer is capable of creating detailed concrete geometry. The concept is driven by the new technology developed by the company, a synergetic collaboration meant to demonstrate the coexistence of that craft and technologies. The first object they realised together was the Digital Chaiselongue.
Their most recent collaboration is titled, 3D Printed Gradient Furniture Collection, distinguishable by its coloured concrete. The ombre effect of the outcome of Incremental3d’s current exploration with dyeing concrete. Adding the dye during the printing process into the nozzle allows the application of localised colour. Aduatz summarises the importance of balancing the two aspects of his work saying, “I believe that traditional craft is an important heritage that should not be lost by the application of modern technologies. Tools like 3D scanning make it possible to combine craft with computer-aided design. By further using technologies like 3D printing or CNC-milling it is possible to switch between a virtual and real model. This should demonstrate that craft and digital technologies can coexist for the purpose of innovation in the 21st century in harmony”. Sometimes form does not follow function, it follows its material truth.