The 4th of Lexus’ annual international Design Award presentations An encounter with Anticipation showcased not only the work of Amsterdam based Italian design studio Formafantasma, who designed the event’s environments but also the creativity of Milanese chef Yoji Tokuyoshi. In the perfect synergy of food and design Michelin Star chef Yoji Tokuyoshi delivered food that has design at its very core. Known for presenting food on plates that were designed specifically for that one dish, Tokuyoshi fuses a contemporary design aesthetic with the Japanese obsession for seemingly contradictory elements - poetry and precision.
‘Buoyancy’ a creation involving just nasturtium leaves floating on fresh water with a pea-sized nugget of sour sweet paste, reveals the purity of Tokuyoshi’s approach. In a similar way Formafantasma were able to reduce the Japanese aesthetic into something that could be meaningfully displayed within the context of an international design show. Their beautifully restrained timber and washi paper pavilion created a soft, serene environment where the four Lexus Design Award finalist’s could present their finished concepts to journalists and the general public while Lexus revealed their new LF-FC concept car in a unique but exceptionally low-key way.
Inspired by the hydrogen-powered LF-FC, Formafantasma created an area in the installation called Sensing Innovation that uses advanced hydrogen fuel cell technology to drive a series of kinetic sculptures – which are in turn inspired by the shape of a hydrogen atom. The installation anticipates a future when electric cars are powered by hydrogen, the only by product of which is clear water.
The installation also included a zone that enabled intimate talks with with designers and their mentors from the Lexus Design Award. Created with a circle of stools designed specifically for the event in the colour and particular paint finish developed for the Lexus LF-FC concept car.
While most car companies show concept cars on a rotating dais with overt brand advertising, the approach taken by Formafantasma for Lexus was not only highly conceptual in nature but involved no real car. Instead the form of the car was revealed slowly by a hydraulic lifting of thousands of fine white cords - each with a small section of the car's body printed on it. Once fully realised the platform that held the cords would collapse back to ground level and start the process all over again. It was a powerful example of how of art and industry can come together to enhance brand awareness without it becoming crass and ugly.
Beyond the launch of the new concept car and the exploration of future concepts through Formafantasma's kinetic sculptures and Yoji Tokuyoshi's inventive Japanese cuisine, the event was a way of showcasing the work of the Lexus Design Award finalists and to present the overall winner. 1,232 works were submitted from 73 countries for the 2016 edition, with just 12 entries being chosen for the Milan installation. Four of these finalists were asked to produce prototypes of their designs under the mentorship of globally recognized creators: the British designer Max Lamb, Shanghai based architects Neri & Hu, Venice (California) based architect and artist Elena Manferdini and New York conceptual architects, Snarkitecture. The prototypes of the final four were featured along side panel presentations from the other eight finalists whose work had been considered for the award.
The four finalists included AMAM from Japan (Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani, Akira Muraoka). Their mentor through the development of the project was Max Lamb, a designer whose understanding and obsession with the value of materiality is legendary. The groups 'Agar Plasticity’ concept is a potential alternative to plastic packaging sourced from marine algae. AMAM were the eventual winners of the Lexus Design Award for 2016 judged by a incredible panel of design luminaries including the design commentator Alice Rawsthorn, MoMA New York's curator Paola Antonelli and Japanese architect Toyo Ito.
The other finalists included Myungsik Jang from Korea whose project 'Dada’ was a building block toy for children. Jang was mentored by Shanghai based architecture and design duo Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu of Neri & Hu. 'Dada' combines cylinder and cube blocks in different materials with bands, holes and pegs to encourage abstract construction and decoration methods to stimulate a child’s imagination.
Angelene Laura Fenuta, who is Canadian Italian was mentored by architect and artist Elena Manferdini of Atelier Manferdini. Fenuta's ‘Shape Shifters’ is an exploration of modular textiles to allow multiple garments to be created from just one. Fenuta completed a masters in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins in 2015 and opened her own label, Angelene the same year.
The last of the four finalists were Turkish duo Studio Ayaskan. The twin sisters, Begum and Bike Ayaskan have just finished a postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art London and Design daily interviewed them briefly about their Lexus Design Award entry 'Trace', an exceptionally inventive and beautiful wall clock.
"Through 'Trace', we wanted to show that there is a connection between the past, present and future. We wanted to visualise the passing of time. In order to both take a moment to reflect on the present and realise that the present not only leaves traces in our past, but also sets the path to our possible futures". Studio Ayaskan
D.d Can you please describe how the clock works?
Studio Ayaskan: The clock has a photo pigment dissolved in a liquid injected into two holes at the top…….the central part is the electronics that move two lasers around the clock - one is the hour the other the second hand. This laser works at the threshold of UV light to blue light, working in the visible spectrum activated by UV light. The liquid picks up the vibrations in the room and creates visible shifts in the way the photo pigment moves in the liquid. This exhibition is very much about the future but without an appreciation of the present and the past you can’t have any awareness of the future. There’s always spontaneous things that happen in life that we can’t control. We wanted people to be aware that what they do today effects their past and what will happen to them in the future. When the clock is turned off there is no indication of the time - the face is blank and there is no indication of what it is for.
Studio Ayaskan: In the piece shown at Tortona, we chose not to incorporate a minute hand as it was designed as a more meditative piece. - We didn’t want it to just reveal the exact time as it was meant to be about considering the past and the future. As the liquid dye fades you are really seeing time that has already passed. Every time the cycle is completed the display is slightly different. In future iterations the minute hand can be added but for the Lexus Design Awards presentation we wanted the clock to be more about the concept rather than the function of accurately telling time.
D.d What’s the reason for your particular fascination with time - you have already done a clock that tells time by shifting sand with rake-like arms…….
Studio Ayaskan: Most of our pieces are about nature slowing down or are meditative pieces. By working with time we hope to encourage people to enjoy the moment rather than worrying about the future or being stressed about the now. Time can pass in a beautiful way that is quite wonderful to observe. We want to slow things down in general and ask people to be more contemplative.
D.d Do you have a science background which has steered you in this direction or did you just learn the necessary things to be able to create this project?
Studio Ayaskan: We studied architecture and design products at the Royal College of Arts – there was a lot of focus on electronic products and technology so we have developed some basic knowledge.
D.d How have you found the move from Turkey to London and will you be staying on in Britain or returning to Turkey to practice?
Studio Ayaskan: We’ve been studying in London for 7 years now so we feel very much at home there. We appreciate that it is a more energetic design community that is doing more exciting things. For now we would like to continue to work in Britain but we would like to take our experiences and knowledge back to Turkey at some stage.
D.d Is there much conceptual design happening in Turkey at the moment?
Studio Ayaskan: It's slowly improving with a broader interest in design beyond conventional products – I believe that in a few years it will be much more prevalent.
D.d: It's an obvious question but what’s it like working with your twin?
Studio Ayaskan: We have lived together all our lives so we know each others strengths and work in similar ways. It can sometimes be a little intense living and working together so closely but most of the time it allows us to work in a very linear fashion as one of us can pick up from where the other has left off – not just in our sentences but also our thoughts. It's far easier for us to work together than having to explain things to someone else.
D.d: Do you have exactly the same aesthetic or is it just very close?
Studio Ayaskan: It's very close. With the projects we tend to work on we come up with the ideas separately. The ideas we like we work on together and share the work between us so the design is always going forward. We understand how each other view things - its not identical but we can predict each others preferences.
D.d: Why specifically did you enter the Lexus Design Award?
Studio Ayaskan: We’d been following the competition for a few years and were keen to enter it as it had a very open brief but we kept missing the entry deadline. This year after graduating we had to do a lot of paperwork and so didn’t get distracted and got our entry in on time. We were very excited to be selected because we love the work of both Snarkitecture and Formafantasma and so were incredibly happy to be selected as finalists and given our mentors. When we first presented it to the guys from Snarkitecture ‘Trace’ was a very small model - like the size of a petri dish – it looked like a science experiment rather than a product. Originally we had the concept of three discs - each one handling a segment of time: hours, minutes, seconds. Snarkitecture encouraged us to go bigger. They could sense we sort of wanted to do this but were a little scared. They discussed with us ways to make it a bit more magical, to create this sense of wonder.
D.d: What’s the near future hold for Studio Ayaskan?
Studio Ayaskan: We want to refine the ‘Trace’ clock a little more and turn it into a limited edition gallery piece.
Of course we want to establish our studio working in conceptual ideas and working on a variety of projects. An interesting concept is more important to us than designing something that can be successfully mass produced. It’s very important to tell stories through the object as well as respond to function.
You can watch a quietly spectacular film showing how the 'Trace' clock operates here.
For more on the entries that were displayed at the Lexus Design Award 2016 installation in Milan, please click here.