Technology and Craft

Technology and Craft

Celebrating its eighth year at Salone del Mobile, Milan, London-based label COS presents the structurally intriguing Conifera. The large-scale, 3D printed installation is made from renewable resources by award-winning architect Arthur Mamou-Mani, who discusses the project and the future of design innovation.

A: Conifera is constructed from 700 interlocking “bio-bricks”. Can you explain more about this renewable material? How is it paving the way for the future of architecture and design?
AMM: The use of bio-material is at the core of this project. We’re using Polyactic acid in different forms, sometimes combined with wood cellulose. This material has a carbon footprint which is 68% less than its petrol-based equivalent. It is compostable and comprised from renewable material, starch, vinegar and glycerin. I’m passionate about pioneering the use of digital fabrication and 3D printing. Exploring such technologies will open a wealth of opportunities for the future of architecture, design and maybe even fashion. I would like to think the houses of the future will be a natural progression from the construction of structures like Conifera.

A: Let’s discuss the digital design process – how was it used in Conifera, and how will these methods transform the way practitioners work?
AMM: As 3D printing continues to evolve towards houses and beyond, it expands the toolbox available to creatives and builders. This installation is a great case study in how the technology is being used and applied, and what the next steps might be. I believe buildings and cities should leave no physical traces. They should be able to grow, adapt and even disappear if necessary.

COS x Mamou-Mani. Photograph by Thomas Lohr, Models Debra Shaw & Kohei.

A: How does this forward-thinking piece interact with its historic location, and how does it take audiences from the manmade through to the natural world?
AMM: The geometry of each “bio-brick” comes from the square motif which is present in the Palazzo Isimbardi, in combination with the 3D printer’s constraints and structural analysis. We wanted to create a sense of poetic “dissolution.” The echoed circular nature of the compostable material creates a journey through the Palazzo, from the courtyard to the garden – going from architecture to nature. Indeed, the name of the artwork, Conifera, references Douglas fir trees – which feature in the bio-plastic bricks – as well as the garden at Palazzo Isimbardi and the wider natural world.

A: What is the significance of this immersive journey?
AMM: Conifera blends the digital with the physical world. It addresses sustainability by using compostable bio-plastic, produced and 3D printed locally. It is a dialogue between technology and craft, between the manmade and the natural and between monumentality and lightness. I hope visitors will appreciate the futuristic, high-tech aspect of the installation but also that it is deeply poetic and human.

A: How does this project tie into COS’ previous installations at Salone del Mobile, and its wider brand ethos?
AMM: COS have a long history of supporting creatives – we are both inspired by working closely alongside designers and creatives from other fields. We feel strongly that to develop and innovate, the sharing of ideas and principles is of great importance.

Salone del Mobile runs until 14 April. Find out more here.

Lead image: COS x Mamou-Mani. Photograph by Thomas Lohr, Models Debra Shaw & Kohei.