We attended the Milan Design Week earlier this month, and one of the installations that caught our eye was the Conifera by COS, designed by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani.
Conifera was feast for the eyes, but more importantly we were excited about the message it said. Design, digitalization, and manufacturing are changing as we know it – thanks to new materials and new ways to manufacture. The installation was set in the courtyard and the gardens of 16th-century Palazzo Isimbardi.
New Materials – 3D-printed
The Conifera installation was made out of 700 3D-printed bioplastic bricks. “Bricks” being a relatively understated word for beautiful 3D-design that reminded me of baskets. Material innovation in the installation: each 3D-printed brick is made from PLA – a bioplastic that is fully compostable, created using renewable resources. The basket-looking bricks were made in three different colors: the translucent sections are PLA in its purest form, whereas the white parts contain a pigment and the brown hue comes from adding wood pulp. The wood pulp was made our of fir trees. The bricks were created through an open-source software, using parametric design to maintain structural stability while optimizing the use of materials — essentially using less to achieve more.
Aside from the sheer possibility of material innovation, the real thing that 3D printing offers designers is freedom. Simply the ability to produce a model quickly and easily in your own studio could transform design and architecture. It puts the onus back on the designer as thinker and maker, harking back to the approach of Mid-Century Modernism, but without a hint of nostalgia. Instead it focuses on the movement’s core values: social and material innovation, and, above all, embracing the potential of technology.
By Billie Muraben, arts and culture writer