Joris Laarman, whose first major survey opens at the Cooper Hewitt this week, spoke to Co.Design about the future of digital design.
By 2006, Joris Laarman had finished graduate school at the Design Academy Eindhoven and was stewing on what would be his next big project. He had recently seen a documentary about an eccentric German professor, Claus Mattheck, who had created a novel design software program. First Mattheck would load a 3D rendering of a machine part into the program, which then stress-tested the part in virtual space. This wasn’t new. But Mattheck’s program would then automatically redesign the interior of the part, adding and subtracting material as needed to yield a piece optimized for weight and performance. That internal structure–a delicate lattice of spindly support columns–looked every bit like what had inspired it: the inside of a bone. Mattheck’s algorithms were borrowed from nature. Laarman imagined making a chair using that same program, only the chair wouldn’t hide its delicate, organic structure on the inside. It would show it off, as both a functional and decorative element. Thus was born the Bone Chair, which has become perhaps the most iconic work of the digital-design era.
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