Milan: Senseware at Museo Triennale 29.04.09

words Johanna Agerman and Anna Bates

Blowing was the process Japanese design studio Nendo used to make its series of mushroom-like polyester lamps. It was part of the Sensware exhibition, curated by Kenya Hara, shown at Museo Triennale in Milan last week.

The exhibition, which was organised by seven Japanese fibre manufacturers, explored the use of new manmade materials and each of the materials was allocated to a designer. "Matchmaking of fibres and creators is the make-or-break decision for this exhibition," says Kenya Hara. "Eventually, I invited 15 creators to participate, comprising of people working in architecture, interior design, product design, art direction and media analysis."

Nendo was commissioned to explore the possibilities of a new thermoplastic fabric called Smash. "The material has this lightness and softness - it lets water and air through it," says chief designer Oki Sato. "It's closer looking to Japanese rice paper than plastic."

Taking inspiration from Japanese rice paper and bamboo lanterns, the studio decided to try and make a seamless lamp out of Smash by blowing into it - a process more commonly associated with making glassware. "We shaped a sheet of Smash into a cylinder shape, set a balloon in it, put it into hot water, and then pumped it up to swell," explains Nendo member Akihiro Ito.

It is impossible to completely control the process, so each fixture takes a unique form, Ito says. "Like in glass-blowing, we can intervene," he continues, "which results in a collection of objects with varied imperfections."

But while the process is quite straightforward, "when the balloons break, you end up with very hot water all over you," Sato warns. Once in shape, the forms are placed into cold water to harden, and a low-heat LED is fixed to the neck.

Other Senseware projects include Ross Lovegrove's Seed of Love bag woven from T.W.F. and Melset; Antonio Citterio's Moshi-moshi sofa made from Formex; Kosuke Tsumura's dress in Kuraray, a nonwoven fabric and Kasiwa Sato's Toys Comprising Visible Air made from Breathair.

top image Nendo’s lamps in Smash

image Ross Lovegrove’s Seed of Love

image Antoni Cittero’s Moshi-moshi sofa

image Kosuke Tsumura’s dress in Kuraray

image Kasiwa Sato’s Toys Comprising Visible Air

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