Functional Evolution

Art, science and innovation underpin Mutations-Créations, Centre Pompidou’s current exploration of the interaction between digital technology and design. Forming part of this interdisciplinary event is Convergence, an exhibition of work by British industrial designer Ross Lovegrove. The intriguing pieces on display, anchored by a central pavilion, are supported by an engaging video in which their creator discursively reflects on the experiences that have acted as a source of inspiration.

Within this, he muses on a personal methodology, emphasising that, “the core of everything I do is through my thought process,” – a notion that involves an ambitious number of considerations – mathematics, ecology, technology, nature and art, to name a handful. Continuing to speak openly about a widespread practice, Lovegrove asserts that “DNA” (Design, Nature, Art) “conditions his world.” This is clearly the case in DNA staircase (2005), where the clean lines of leaf-like stairs unfold with immaculate symmetry, combining these three factors in equal measure.

This concept can also be seen in Lasvit LiquidKristal Pavilion (2012), where “Design” is represented by a proposal for a solar-powered electric car, and also in Car on a stick (2013) where “Nature” is embodied by an elephant skull. The image of the skull can also be seen as a conceptual support for Cellular Automata (2008), closely followed by stereolithic studies of human bone – displayed nearby – conjuring a wider context of mortality, posterity and environmentalism. Lastly “Art” is considered through a series of sketchbooks displayed alongside those of iconic British artist Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) – a palpable inspiration.

Perceived as an “evolutionary biologist,” both nature and digital technology are incorporated into Lovegrove’s work in inventive ways. Corolised Chair (2012) and Diatom (2014), for example, are created using alamide netification, a process defined as “the spread of form.” Once this process is underway, it should not be interfered with – a reflection of the invasive relationship between humans and nature. This approach results in bespoke pieces which unite revolutionary design with organic characteristics, asserting spontaneity as a key contributor to the future of tertiary solutions to contemporary life. The rhythms of incidence and free-flowing progression become an essential element considered for movements in the wider Anthropocene.

Lovegrove has worked across an impressive breadth of industries, with a diverse client portfolio including Hermès, Luceplan and Japan Airlines. Memorably, for Italian lighting brand Artemide, he created a solar-powered biometric lighting system; The Solar Tree (2006-2010) unites high design with ecological principles to form an alternate form of street lighting. Bamboo Bike (2001-2008) similarly addresses an ambition to bring innovation to the everyday; the materials are at once respectful to the environment, but the bike as a whole both beautiful and functional. Above all, the pieces chosen utilise a methodology that responds to the wider environment and avant-garde digital production, rather than cost, speed and mass-production. These opposing motivations – and the results they yield – re-instate a growing interest in the crossing-point between the synthetic and the organic, one that is both fluid and synonymous.

Nicole Mullan

Ross Lovegrove: Convergence is at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 3 July. For more information visit

1. Ross Lovegrove, Lasvit LiquidKristal Pavilion (2012). By Studio Ross Lovegrove for Lasvit.