Shivering bowls by Nendo 25.03.13

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The Triennale Design museum in Milan is hosting an exhibition titled Kama that explores the relationship between sex and design. Alongside more than 200 historical exhibits, eight international designers, including Nacho Carbonell, Andrea Branzi and, predictably, Nigel Coates, were invited to contribute new works or installations that explore how sexuality manifests itself in objects and makes them a medium of knowledge.

Japanese design practice Nendo responded to this brief by creating a series of extremely thin silicon bowls that deform when touched or buffeted by a breeze.

"Nendo and sex are totally opposite," says designer and founder of Nendo, Oki Sato. "We tried to find a link between eros and design that we thought was strongly related to people's emotions." The designer wanted to create a desire to touch the bowls, enticing the user with the tactility and movement of the material. Sato chose the form of the clay bowl to encourage people to notice how small differences can subvert the familiar.

Each bowl took a few days to produce. First, a mould was created using plaster. "It was a big challenge," says Sato. "We would continue to pour a small amount of silicon in and out of the mould until the inner walls were evenly spread. When the silicon gets too thin, it cannot stand on its own, and when it gets too thick it loses its magic." A series of prototypes were used to perfect the techniques that could produce the bowls at the desired thickness.

Sato is unsure if the bowls explicitly relate to the idea of sex and design, believing that they say more about desire. "The design contains small hints about how design should approach people, to make them want to approach it," he says. The shivering bowls may not be the most outrageous designs in what aimed to be a controversial show – many of the exhibits provide a far more literal and crass response to the brief. Yet, Nendo aimed for something more thoughtful: "We wanted to express eros through a design that invokes desire – a design that viewers simply can't bear not to touch."

Kama: Sex and Design, 5 December 2012 to 10 March 2013. Triennale Design Museum, Milan






Owen Pritchard

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We wanted to express eros through a design that invokes desire – a design that viewers simply can't bear not to touch

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