Material Research ESSAY
Thinking that human beings have inhabited the Earth for about two-thousandths of the time it existed might help us rescale the sense of entitlement that we have been long used to feel towards it. It can also help us understand that to ensure our survival in an ecosystem so incredibly vast and complex—and fully capable of existing even without us—we should alter its balance as little as possible. While some changes may appear radical and definitive from a single human life perspective, many of them are just fleeting changes for the landscape that hosts them; Impalpable ripples on the motion of a tide.
“The Zürich-based duo established their practice on defining a relationship with materials from an ecocentric perspective.”
A prominent example of this comparison is the High Rhine area of Switzerland, where the Adriatic plate and the European plate overlap and which was once covered by a prehistoric sea. Around 250 million years ago, the saltwater basin that until then had coated some areas of the country evaporated, leaving a residual salt sheet. The latter got progressively covered by mountain erosions and sediment depositions, left behind by a glacial expansion dated 25,000 years ago. This slow layering of events has unwound in a timespan so abstractly large that it is difficult to imagine—and later accelerated into two extremely acquainted and substantial materials: gravel and sand. Today, the deposit looks like a constellation of hundreds of deep gravel pits, temporarily deforming the landscape into a negative archipelago in the sea that once was.
This territory has recently become the set of the geomorphological quest carried out by Studio Eidola, a design studio founded in 2020 by Denizay Apusoglu and Jonas Kissling. The Zürich-based duo established their practice on defining a relationship with materials from an ecocentric perspective, researching and experimenting with the craft of manufacturing. The process-oriented form-finding at the core of their work leads to close contact with every raw material they explore. Here, the matter gets handled like the hyperobject1 it actually is. It is approached with almost animistic respect, focussing on a deep, objective understanding rather than a merely conceptual interpretation. Sometimes, putting into question the notion of the artifact itself.
1 Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, University of Minnesota Press, 2013
This issue comes into play when we think of how geomorphic processes shape the landscape around us. They model it across tens of millions of years through the air, water, ice, and tectonic movements, yielding the Earth a giant pebble honed by the motion of a thousand revolutions. In fact, the process behind the project Ocean Articulated is very close to this spontaneous, millenary dynamic. Adjusting the traditional sand-casting method to fit innovative materials, Studio Eidola channels an archeological (or rather, anarcheological2) excavation process. By the counterintuitive procedure of forming a solid shape out of brittle materials, they perform an act of engagement with the elements they long have been studying.
2 Michel Foucault, Du gouvernement des vivants: Cours au Collège de France (1979–1980), Seuil – Hautes Études, 2012
“The duo developed a load-bearing, recyclable and reusable material, similar to those used in the construction industry yet very different in terms of properties.”
The project consists of a unifying process, where sand is the main component of both the pouring mixture and the casting mould. Drawing from the large amount of local sand available due to the erosion of the Alps, the duo developed a load-bearing, recyclable and reusable material, similar to those used in the construction industry yet very different in terms of properties. Unlike concrete, this alternative material is recyclable as once solidified can return to its original states, dissolving into its raw materials either by slow, natural decomposition or by being quickly watered down. Challenging the illusory dualism that sees nature and artifice at the extremities, the sand and salt-based mixture dries inside the sand mold, and the cast gets revealed as an object washed ashore.
“humans do not learn through an act of engagement but rather of extraction.”
A relic disclosed by waves. A primary part of design inspiration historically derives from nature, copying its silhouettes, formats, and methods and claiming it’s developing technological innovation through an act of learning. However, the result is usually a non-mutual process, in which humans do not learn through an act of engagement but rather of extraction. While the concept of knowledge is often related to power, exclusivity, and therefore division, that of understanding implies sympathetic awareness; A connection of sorts, as suggested by its Latin root inter, which means between, amidst. And this is precisely the vocational hinge where the project Ocean Articulated lies. It taps into the primordial cyclicality that links sand and glaciations and borrows raw materials from the Earth which later returns, in their original form. Above all, it draws attention to natural processes and channels to them, working to make the Anthropocene as short and thin as possible3.
3 “I think our job is to make the Anthropocene as short/thin as possible and to cultivate with each other in every way imaginable epochs to come that can replenish refuge.” Donna Haraway, Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin. Environmental Humanities, 2015
“Ocean Articulated taps into the primordial cyclicality that links sand and glaciations and borrows raw materials from the Earth which later returns, in their original form.”
Zoë De Luca Legge
Material Research ESSAY
Zoë De Luca Legge
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