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Mind & Matter

 

A Tale of Two Materials (Exhibits)

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A glimpse at the material sample room in Hello Materials, at the Danish Design Center.

 

While in Copenhagen for the Danish Architecture Center symposium and exhibition "Material World," I also had a chance to visit a concurrent exhibit focused on materials at the Danish Design Center. Maria Hørmann, a project manager in the Design & Innovation group, gave me a personal tour of the show, entitled "Hello Materials," which was co-curated by the DDC and UK-based designer Chris Lefteri.

 

With two exhibits on the same subject matter occurring within walking distance of one another, one might anticipate a lot of redundancy. However, the shows are remarkably different in character. Naturally, the DAC show highlights architectural applications, while the DDC show is geared more towards product design. Beyond this obvious difference, however, each exhibit also has a different thematic structure (which may also allude to resonant themes within each discipline).

 

"Material World" is consistently positive, showcasing the physical outcomes of human ingenuity and the possibilities of material innovation projected at the scale of building. "Hello Materials," by contrast, inserts a strong social and ethical message, distinguishing between materials that we need versus the ones we want. The juxtaposition of chairs made of recycled plastic with diamond-encrusted luxury cell phones illustrates this distinction well. (Maria informed me that this distinction was originally more acute, labeled as "need" versus "greed.") In addition, "Hello Materials" adds the themes of "use" and "wonder," which are used to address a collection of product samples and a display of smart materials, respectively.

 

Each one of these remarkable shows inspires and informs, but the combination of the two is truly enlightening. Copenhagen residents and visitors are fortunate to have access to such a fascinating coupling of exhibits within such a short distance from each other—both of which reinforce the thoughtfulness and craft of Danish design.

 

The Danish Design Center also continues to spread the broader message of materials innovation in its ongoing Hello Materials blog.

 

 
 

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.