Studio Formafantasma question and challenge our conventional perception of plastics and product design in this edition of our Art of Design series.
Plastic products are ubiquitous in our everyday lives – but what if the ‘Oil Age’ we are living in had never existed? How might our everyday products have evolved without oil-based plastics? This was the concept behind Botanica, a Formafantasma project which culminated in a unique collection of products created from naturally derived polymers.
The Botanica project was commissioned by Plart, an Italian foundation dedicated to the recovery, restoration and conservation of key 20th and 21st century art and design works produced in plastic. Although plastic was once considered the material of the future, synthetic polymers are now seen as an undesirable by-product of the oil era. Most of our everyday objects are made of plastic and this material will continue to remain relevant – even if in another form. Accordingly, Formafantasma aimed to produce their own interpretation of ‘plastic’ materials for the Botanica project.
As if historians, Formafantasma investigated the pre-bakelite period, discovering unexpected textures, feelings and technical possibilities offered by natural polymers extracted from plants or animal-derivatives. Doing historical research, the designers dug into the work of 18th and 19th century scientists who were draining plants and animals in search for plasticity.
What emerged was Botanica, a range of resin-based objects with organic details and plant-like forms that reflect their vegetal and animal origins. The colour palette is created from the natural amber tones of the resins, in combination with traditional materials such as wood, ceramic and metal.
In Botanica, Studio Formafantasma offers a new post-industrial aesthetic. Although the textures and colours are evocative of 20th Century Bakelite objects, the finish and detailing give Botanica a contemporary feel.
Today, we can be said to be moving towards a new post-oil era, and the pre-oil era is once again being explored in search for alternatives. Online blogs and archives are constantly collating and updating information, challenging consumers to produce their own plastics. An American University is currently importing Russian Dandelion flowers, to revive the lost tradition of extracting rubber from the plants roots. Accordingly, Studio Formafantasma has looked to the past for inspiration and delivered a relevant body of work with a contemporary twist.
Botanica has received wide critical acclaim in 2012, leading to finalist nominations for Formafantasma in the Dutch Design Awards, DOEN | Materiaalprijs, and the Fastco Innovation by Design Awards.
About Studio Formafantasma
Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin are Studio Formafantasma – two Italian designers based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Their collaboration evolved from communication design to product design during their MA studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
Studio Formafantasma’s work explores design themes such as the role of design in folk craft, the relationship between tradition and local culture, a critical approach to sustainability, and the significance of objects in modern culture.
Studio Formafantasma works on self-commissioned projects and in collaboration with companies to develop its unique design identity. Their work has been shown at high-profile design shows and galleries internationally and at the prestigious auction house Sotheby’s.
Further information ..
Botanica photos: Luisa Zanzani
Formafantasma portrait: Studio Formafantasma
Botanica project commissioned by: Plart Foundation
Curated by: Marco Petroni
- On 25th October 2012