by Jerry ElengicalJun 11, 2022
British designer Tom Dixon, revered for his instantly iconic designs of furniture, lighting, and accessories, debuts his latest work, the HYDRO chair, in close collaboration with one of the world’s largest aluminium producers, Hydro. The product design's uniqueness lies in its succinct materiality – HYDRO is made from aluminium that can be recycled endlessly without losing its properties (when done right). This, therefore, makes it an ideal material when designing for a circular economy, getting more for less.
Priced at a whopping €2,021, the limited edition of 300 is all numbered and signed by Dixon. Along with the spectacular, orbed, BURST Chandelier, HYDRO’s first batch was launched in a 60-piece limited edition run on April 13, 2021, as part of ‘24 Hours in Milan’, marking 60 years of Salone del Mobile.
Dixon is no stranger to designing marvels with metal, in its myriad processes and forms, and does it again seamlessly with HYDRO. “I have always been obsessed with materials and aluminium in particular. It is a metal I find incredibly interesting with its endless opportunities in terms of shapes and surface qualities. Being able to work with the top aluminium and material experts in the industry was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse,” says the self-taught designer, founder and creative director of Tom Dixon Studio.
Ideal for use both inside and outside, the matte silver HYDRO chair belongs to a museum as easily as it does to a penthouse, and is an innovation in aluminium technology - instead of pouring aluminium into molds in liquefied form, or pressed into a solid object, the chair employs a process called ‘superplastic forming’, where molten aluminum is sprayed onto a single mold at high temperatures, and laser cut by robots, peeling off and structuring itself into a definite body. Similar to how car parts are glued together (not welded, or riveted), the legs are glued to the body with industrial adhesive from the auto industry, as they are made in a Canadian factory that specialises in car body parts mainly for Tesla.
“These methods were developed in the automotive industries to make deep and complex forms that were impossible to achieve a few years ago. The ballooned pattern gives strength and rigidity and lends a soft and humorous pop sensibility to the lightweight and shiny metal sheet,” shares Dixon. If its geometry were left flat, the chair would need more metal to sustain itself. The resultant design comes close to just 2.81 kgs, and one can see Dixon holding it up with one hand, demonstrating its lightness. Along with that, the chairs are highly stackable, which makes them practical as well as sculptural pieces. “I have been trying to make metal chairs for 30 years, and this one took me at least three years to get right,” Dixon reveals.
“The future needs circular materials and we need to design products that live longer, can be recycled or reused. Understanding material properties and manufacturing processes will help create more sustainable products designed with recycling or reuse in mind, and that is why we believe it is important for designers and manufacturers to collaborate,” says Hilde Kallevig, Head of Brand and Marketing at Hydro.