Can design transform our relationship with our world? Formafantasma is proving it’s possible.
Far from the cool, aesthetic detachment typical in modern design, Italians Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin create work laden with value. Following graduation from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2009, the pair founded the Formafantasma studio in Amsterdam. Through approaching design holistically, their projects reveal the possibility of a more conscious appreciation of our environments, calling into question the distinction between the natural and the constructed. In the world of Formafantasma, design is not simply an object to be admired, but an action with social and political implications. Only ten years later their explorations were rewarded with THE DESIGN PRIZE in the ‘experimentation’ category.
The practice of Formafantasma is one of reconciliation, bridging divisions between craft and industry, object and user, tradition and local culture. Now heading the design department at Eindhoven, Andrea and Simone advocate for these principles in education, introducing methods within Geo-Design that extend beyond the boundaries of compartmentalized knowledge. Their recent collaboration with Rado reveals the close attention they pay to all that exists outside of the object, here the materials and time itself. To encounter any project of Formafantasma is to become aware of one’s position in the world, and to recognize through design a new realm of exceptional and radical possibilities.
How important are materials in your work as designer?
Extremely important. We often start from material explorations because we believe there are plenty of possibilities that open up when investigating materials. Much more than when for instance starting from form. Many of our best works are in depth material researches.
Let us know some of your favorite products you have designed – key projects of your work.
For sure Cambio, our exhibition at Serpentine Gallery in London is a very important body of work. The exhibition is a collaborative effort that joins the works of scientists, designers, activists, philosophers and researchers, in the attempt to critically look at wood consumption and the ecological implications of design.
Ore Streams is also similarly ambitious. There we look into the problematics of e-waste recycling and what design can eventually do to offer solutions or to improve the problem.
What is your relation to time / watches?
We are extremely fascinated by the idea of time and in particular the difference between how humans perceive the passing of time and time on a more geological or even planetary level. We previously designed timepieces reflecting on these ideas. In one project we used sand from the Etna Volcano while on another occasion we used the natural patterns of marble to indicate the passing of time.
What was your inspiration / idea for the design of the True Square Formafantasma?
The idea came from the material itself, ceramic. We wanted to make a watch that emphasised the qualities of the material and its application in watchmaking. We tried as much as possible to develop a language that could emphasise ceramic and use it for what it is. We did not want ceramic to look like metal or any other material but to use it almost naked. The form of the watch also references pocket watches, were often the lid featured a small opening for a quick peek at the time.
What is your design philosophy and how did you express it in the True Square?
Our design philosophy is difficult to elaborate in a few lines but let’s say that we always want to challenge cliché. In this case, we were interested in the watch as a tool not as a status or a symbol of luxury. The watch we designed is very sober, it almost looks naked. We tried to do something radical in its simplicity.
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Words: Sara Foster
Photos: Formafantasma, Rado