Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age
Exhibition TextFounded in 2004 by Dutch designer Joris Laarman and filmmaker Anita Star, Joris Laarman Lab is known for its pioneering work that fuses digital technologies with design, science, and craftsmanship. The Amsterdam-based Lab consists of designers, engineers, programmers, and makers. Among its astonishing array of work are furniture forms created with software that mimics bone growth, robotically assembled tables made from voxels (3D pixels), and a 3D-printable chair available for free download. The team's inventive furniture and cutting-edge experiments are as innovative as the manufacturing processes used to create them.
Recent major projects include the development of MX3D printing, a first-of-its kind digital fabrication process in which a robot prints metal structures in mid-air. The revolutionary process enables aesthetic freedom—structures are self-supporting, pulled and twisted into undulating shapes that would otherwise never be possible. The MX3D Bridge, a fully functional footbridge, will be 3D-printed using the technology and installed over a canal in Amsterdam in 2018.
Joris Laarman Lab's imaginative approach focuses on research and experimentation, testing new technologies and production methods that point to a future where from and fabrication surpass the limitations of industrial production. At the same time, Laarman and his team often reference historical periods in their body of work, such as the Baroque (which began in the 1600s) and Art Nouveau (popular between 1890–1910). Their use of curvilinear, attenuated forms signify not just an interest in ornament but also a connection to the past. The Lab's work straddles tradition and innovation, high technology and craftsmanship, and aesthetics and function, concerns that remain at the forefront of design today.
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Reinventing Functionality TextIn 2003, Joris Laarman graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven with Reinventing Functionality, a series of work that proposes new relationships of function, form, and decoration in 21st-century objects. The series includes the curly Heatwave radiator and Ivy climbing wall. Countering the influential modernist ideal of functionalism that reigned for much of the 20th century, the projects embrace baroque motifs, pairing ornament and utility. Here, Laarman finds functionalism in highly decorative form.
See all the objects in the Reinventing Functionality section.
Makerchairs TextAmong the promises of digital fabrication is returning production methods to users, which is increasingly possible as 3D printers shrink in size and price point. This democratization of production is at the heart of maker culture, a digital DIY movement often typified by an amateur zeal that is upended in the Makerchair series. The series consists of 12 chairs, each an investigation into material, pattern variability, and digital fabrication methods. Each Makerchair is digitally fabricated and assembled from small parts like a 3D puzzle. True to the maker spirit of the series’ namesake, Joris Laarman Lab adapted the Makerchair design and made it available for free download at bitsandparts.org.
See all the objects in the Makerchairs section.
Microstructures Text3D printing allows intricate and complex structures never before possible—interlocking lattices, woven grids, and polyhedral patterns—to be created in plastic and metal. The Microstructures seating series examines how this complexity can be functional. The design of each chair starts on-screen with a basic unit, like a cell. Algorithms combine and test a gradient of characteristics for each cell, such as its porosity, thickness, rigidity, or softness to optimize the chair’s performance. Where a chair will bear more load, the structure becomes denser; where it does not, the structure becomes more porous. The seating in this gallery tests varying scenarios and materials, each resulting in a unique aesthetic.
See all the objects in the Microstructures section.
Digital Matter TextNintendo meets Rococo . . . . In 2011, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta commissioned Joris Laarman Lab to develop an installation about the future of design. Inspired by research into programmable materials, Laarman and his team proposed a series of tables made of voxels, small cubes that represent volumetric pixels. The voxels can be assembled and reassembled by a robot arm following a digital blueprint. The series explores three-dimensional resolution using Nintendo’s Super Mario, a video game character, as a pixel-based analogy. As the voxel size used in each table decreases from 10 millimeters to 3 millimeters, the resolution of each Rococo-inspired table increases.
See all the objects in the Digital Matter section.
Experiments TextExperimentation fuels the creative process at Joris Laarman Lab. It allows the team to test new ideas and technologies, explore fabrication methods, and investigate forms and narratives, critical to the evolution of the Lab’s work. The experiments in this section are a small sample of those lining the shelves in the Lab’s Amsterdam-based workshop, but suggest the range of Laarman and his team’s curiosity. A bioluminscent lamp made from firefly cells, a table whose form is inspired by starling murmurations, and vases that deteriorate with each cast are examples of how Joris Laarman Lab incubates concepts and develops ideas in its expanding and imaginative body of work.
See all the objects in the Experiments section.
MX3D TextMX3D is a revolutionary digital fabrication process. Developed by Joris Laarman Lab, MX3D uses industrial robots and an advanced welding machine to print metal structures in mid-air. It originated from the Lab’s desire to 3D print large-scale functional objects—until MX3D the size of 3D-printed parts had been limited to the size of the printer. This new technology advances the technical and aesthetic possibilities of digital fabrication. Parametric modeling software generates self-supporting, attenuated forms. The Dragon Bench is the first series created using the MX3D metal printer. In 2018, the MX3D Bridge—the world’s first fully functional footbridge 3D-printed in stainless steel—will be installed over a canal in Amsterdam.
See all the objects in the MX3D section.
Bone Furniture TextThe Bone Furniture is among Laarman’s best-known series. The designs were created using algorithms that mimic bone growth, removing mass where strength isn’t needed. The software was initially developed for the European automotive industry, based on research by German scientist Claus Mattheck. The algorithm digitally sculpts furniture on-screen, revealing optimal forms that share the tenuousness and irregular complexity of bone and natural shapes. The furniture is then cast using 3D-printed molds. The Bone series demonstrates our digital era’s relationship with nature: no longer just stylistic inspiration, nature’s principles generate form.
See all the objects in the Bone Furniture section.