Design Talk: Materialized Intelligence | 3 Dec at 7:30 pm
Swiss designer Tom Strala, LAUFEN’s Director of Marketing and Products Marc Viardot, and Belgrade Design Week Founder and Curator, Jovan Jelovac.
As part of the Campus Collective Party / 3 Dec, 7-11 pm
7610 NE 4th Court, Miami, FL 33138

In the following excerpt from an interview, Tom discusses the inspiration and process behind the TMS Light and Rattan Seefelder Series.

On TMS…..
An idea is not a question of luck it is a process. What is normally understood purely as intuition is rather a series of single steps which can be described, reflected upon, and reproduced. I’m chasing after the scent of a fascinating idea, not to hem it in, but to stimulate its unique essence. I try to endow their intrinsic ideas with language to material forms – and bringing them into contact with the intellectual life of humans.

My intension was to make a folded metal lamp made of one sheet. I had 4 years to develop it. The formal process needed a lot of time. Because you have so many possibilities, to find out what is right for me was like walking through a jungle. So I can only really describe the technical process.

As I started with this lamp I had first to learn how the metal works, and what properties it follows. WE must first take into consideration that a metal sheet always has more tension on the surface. That has something to do how they produce these sheets. The surface is cooling first while the inner part of the sheet is still warm and liquid. So my first experiment was to scratch the surface of the metal from both sides. I expected that the metal would bend itself into the right position because of the typical tension in the material, but it didn‘t work. So I had to rethink the approach to the metal.

Imagine a very thin metal sheet. Like a piece of aluminum foil, we can mold it from one form to the other with our hands. We can fold it, or make it a ball. Imagine a big beam. This beam doesn’t break even if a skyscraper is sitting on it. Same material – but the intensity of energy we have to put into the metal to make it malleable, is completely different. It can be soft in our hands like the aluminium foil example, or we need to raise the temperature to 1250 C° in the example of the beam. The point where this material starts to change, or becomes liquid, has something to do with the intensity of energy, the bigness of the material, and the manner of the pressure.
My problem was to connect these two properties: the folding and stability of the material. The solution was very simple. I have taken a metal sheet and made it stable enough that you can’t fold with your hands. I thinned out the metal where it needs to be folded. The metal sheet – even when it is very thin like this – still has 3 dimensions. So you have the choice in which dimension you want to thin out the metal. I decided to make it in the long direction.

On Seefelder:
The design of the “Seefelder” series was a creative process that took around three years.

The arious possibilities of the rattan and its technical and aesthetic materials were explored and
further developed with the goal being a relaxed modernity: defined forms, and a very accessible functionality.
With its unpretentious nature and the natural warmth of rattan, the “Seefelder” celebrates
the poetry of daily life while conveying the relaxed feeling of a holiday cottage. The
“Seefelder” series is a response to sterile and overwrought design, where vanity overwhelms
beauty and a lust for life.

In Europe you don’t see nature rattan anymore. Here you have a lot of Dedon (sythetic rattan) furniture. Furniture that fakes the look of a natural product, but have nothing to do with it. The under construction of the sythetic rattan product is just a shell of the real thing. A material which is not elastic, but with plastic bandages that try to mirror the feeling of nature. I wondered what led to this trend.

One of the problems, when you use natural rattan for outdoor furniture is the rain. To much moisture can make the rattan deteriorate and even smell foul. Another problem was aesthetic based. You have to over engineer and build under the seat which makes the chair look very bold. To address this issue I used metal as the material for the base. The fusion of metal and natural rattan provided the best of both worlds and leveraged the best properties of each material.