Robb Read: The Next Dimension

For pioneering furniture designers, 3-D printing is a portal to the future.

By Helena Madden 19/10/2021

Audrey Large was never too keen on making things by hand. As a master’s candidate at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 2017, she and the other students were pushed into metal or wood workshops, but her preferred method was to create designs on a computer. The catch was how to turn these digital drawings into physical objects; 3-D printing bridged the gap. Instead of meticulously tufting a rug or moulding a porcelain jar as she’d tried to do in the past, Large found she could simply hit “print” for her virtual object to become reality. But the technology didn’t impress her much at first. “I felt it was kind of ugly,” she says of the outcomes. “Not as seducing as the shapes I had in my computer.”

Even so, the promise of circumventing the artisanal aspect of the creation process was too great, so she kept at it. Trial and error became an important part of her work: Large would intentionally run designs through the printer that were structurally unsound to test the device’s limits. When she got stuck, she consulted YouTube and online forums. The final bowls and vases she developed look like they’ve been ripped straight from the colourful digital realms
of Tron or Ready Player One.

“There’s no painting, there’s no coating on the object,” she says. “I like that it’s coming out of the computer, out of the machine. I take it out and I don’t touch it so that it’s closest to the file.”

In recent years, 3-D printing, perhaps dismissed as just a method for creating prototypes or a way for college kids to make plastic bric-à-brac for their friends, has been adopted by a slew of serious designers. They’ve used the machines to produce chairs, tables, vases and even whole wall panels, cementing their spot in a niche-but-growing manufacturing space that shipped 2.1 million printers globally in 2020. It’s a quantum leap forward from when 3-D printers were invented in the mid-’80s, yet the technology is still raw. Despite that, the industry was celebrated last year during the early days of the pandemic, when a group of architects from all over the world used their printers to churn out thousands of face shields for front-line healthcare workers.

The most interesting work, though, is happening at the opposite end of the spectrum from such mass production, by designers who value the machine as a tool that’s capable of forging incredibly complex designs, some that would be otherwise impossible to realise. The apex of this movement is in Europe, particularly Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, where a rich history of furniture design relied heavily on the handmade. A 3-D printer offers a fresh take on these practices,
or, for some, a way to rebel against them.

Spanish firm Nagami makes a point of only creating furniture that takes full advantage of 3-D printing’s unique capabilities. Like Large, cofounder Manuel Jiménez García began experimenting with digital fabrication while studying for his master’s degree at the Architectural Association in London, before moving on to large-scale 3-D printing. But this was 2009, and there was much less research on the subject. “We were trying to get the concept of 3-D printing that you’re probably used to, which is encapsulated into a desktop-sized box, and take it out of that box and build larger pieces,” he says. Eventually, he bought a bigger machine: a 2.4-metre-tall robotic arm that’s often used in automotive manufacturing. The new tech allowed Nagami to make complex furniture on a grander scale, including the Voxel chair—a seat with an intricate structure that, at first glance, resembles the chaos of tangled computer wires. It was a proof of concept, demonstrating that a design sketched on a computer and manufactured by robots can be even more remarkable than one patiently drawn by human hand.

It’s a much faster process too. Voxel can be 3-D-printed in a few days using one continuous line of plastic filament that’s about 2.4 kilometres long. “It’s literally depositing material particle by particle,” says Jiménez. “That’s something that by hand you couldn’t do, or else you would need to be the most special person on the planet.” Nagami’s ambitions have attracted big-name collaborators like Zaha Hadid Architects. The late architect’s namesake firm drew upon Jiménez’s expertise and hardware to create the Rise chair. The piece features a seamless blue-to-light-green colour gradient, which, like the inner workings of Voxel, is easy to input into a computer but difficult to execute manually.

That’s not to say printing designers want to do away with made-by-hand craftsmanship entirely. Many, like Mathias Bengtsson, consider the tech to be just the first step in a long, fastidious process. “I don’t want to do 3-D printing for the sake of it,” says the Dane, best known for the Spun chaise lounge, which resembles a giant Slinky and is in the Museum of Modern Art New York’s permanent collection. “I want to take it far away from the 3-D printing, and I need to know there’s always hands on it before and after the process, stuff being cast or hand-polished or sanded by craftsmen, artisans. Maybe it’s a reflection that I’m of the generation that was born just before computers came out, so I’m trained to do everything by hand.”

He’s not kidding. Bengtsson couldn’t afford a 3-D printer when he was a student in the late ’90s. Instead, he made a tracing tool to outline shapes on pieces of cardboard, cut them out and stacked them in homage to the S-shaped Panton chair, an iconic modernist design. His DIY construction emulated 3-D printers’ method of adding one layer of filament—usually plastic—on top of the other. Nowadays Bengtsson’s process is a bit more sophisticated. His Cellular chair is 3-D-printed as one big piece of porous epoxy resin; one version is then cast in bronze. Like many of his designs, Cellular, which resembles a metallic hunk of volcanic rock, is one that’s possible only by marrying new technology with old philosophies and techniques: the printer creates the complex pattern, and the artisan gives it a carefully applied finish. Bengtsson’s Growth series takes a similar approach. The twisty, vine-like silhouettes of each chair and table are based on an artificial-intelligence computer program that simulates a seed taking root and growing into a mature plant. The stem’s digitised pattern is then 3-D-printed and cast in different metals, giving the finished product a distinctly organic look; one could easily be forgiven for mistaking the shiny seat for a sculpture. “When there’s a dialogue with the machine, the machine also leaves a little bit of a fingerprint,” he says. “I’m not looking for perfection.”

Bengtsson isn’t the only one combining 3-D printing with AI systems. Synthesis, a design firm in New York, created a program that can generate tens of thousands of different wall-panel patterns, from rigidly geometric versions to ones that look like sound waves. Clients can choose their favourite iterations from a video of the wide-ranging selection. “Each exploration is lifetimes of a designer’s time. That’s not an exaggeration,” says John Meyer, Synthesis’s founder. “I mean, we spent years on the first patterns of these panels. Every vacation I went on, every street I walked down, I did pattern study and exploration. It took me years to come up with 10 to 15 really nice patterns that people tend to like.” Almost all of Synthesis’s wall panels are 3-D-printed in plastic. The firm’s expertise with the technology extends to furnishings, including the cantilevered Karv table and the spherical Santorini fire pit, which can also be made in concrete. All can be customised and cast in various colours.

These sorts of tweaks are easy with 3-D printing, but one aspect that remains difficult—and to some degree unexplored—is the use of different materials. Many still associate the medium with plastic, but a handful of artisans are slowly chipping away at that mould. “I was a bit disappointed because I came from an art school, from design school,” says Dutch designer Olivier van Herpt of his first impressions of 3-D printing. “The physical value of what came out, you were just waiting hours and hours and still ending up with a plastic piece.” Instead, he wanted to print with clay. It took van Herpt about eight years to build his own custom printer that could produce ceramic vessels. His invention can even be paused in the middle of printing, allowing him to shape aspects of the clay by hand before it’s complete. An interesting confluence of man and machine, sure, but why not just throw some vessels on a pottery wheel as ceramists have done for millennia?

As with Jiménez, for van Herpt it has to do with 3-D printing’s specialised capabilities. The technology is very precise, so it can perfectly render extremely detailed patterns, such as the tiny ridges of his new limited-edition white porcelain vase. He also used the printer to put a fresh spin on delftware, the traditional Dutch school of ceramics with a striking blue-and-white colour palette. Van Herpt added cobalt oxide to white clay and then loaded it into the printer; the resulting vases have a gradient that’s achievable only via the combination of bespoke machinery and hands-on craftsmanship.

A more common (and perhaps less time-consuming) medium of experimentation is wood, which has recently been championed by Yves Béhar, a versatile designer whose extensive résumé includes the ever-popular Sayl office chair and PayPal’s no-frills logo. His Vine series of a bowl, a basket, a tray and a vase is manufactured with a composite made of cast-off lumber. Béhar completed the digital sketches and started producing the pieces in about four weeks, a testament to the breakneck speed at which digital manufacturing can operate. But one of the biggest perks of Vine is environmental. “Every particle that I’ve used or that falls off the printer can be built with again,” he says. “So there’s literally no waste.”

In fact, 3-D printing has long been heralded as a cleaner, greener means of production. It’s sometimes referred to as “additive manufacturing” because it adds material in order to create a final product, so you pretty much use what you need. In theory, it’s a less wasteful alternative to traditional, more subtractive methods, which instead take one big piece of wood, say, and cut away the excess. But 3-D printing isn’t quite as pure as has been made out. Polylactic acid (PLA) is the industry’s bioplastic of choice and is considered an eco-friendlier alternative because it’s usually made of corn starch rather than petroleum. But “eco-friendlier” is a relative term. “There are some real concerns about PLA,” says Sherry Handel, executive director of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association. “It’s great in a lot of ways, because it’s plant-based and because it biodegrades. But it has to be decomposed under high temperatures—not in a landfill, but in an industrial compost situation.”

There’s also an issue of supply chain. PLA will contaminate other plastics during the recycling process, so it can’t just be thrown into the trash with water bottles and yogurt cups. Instead, it has to be sent separately to specialised waste-management facilities, which are in much shorter supply. In summary, better than a single-use plastic, but not great.

Issues with waste are compounded by the fact that 3-D-printed furniture can be perfected only by ongoing experimentation. Failed builds are a necessary part of the development process, as they allow designers to test the limits of what the machine can achieve. “It was years of it not coming out the way we were hoping,” says Meyer. “It’s trial and error, mostly error. That’s what got us here.” Synthesis uses PLA and is careful to separate the castoffs from run-of-the-mill plastics so they can be recycled properly, as do others, but not everyone is so conscientious. Another solution is to break down plastic waste on-site and incorporate it into new designs, a process that’s time-consuming.

“People have to buy an additional machine, and then you have to do the quality control because you’ve got to know if you’re going to be able to use the materials,” says Handel. “It’s another extra step. A lot of companies just want to focus on what they’re doing. You want someone else to deal with that part.” In 2019, Filamentive, a PLA manufacturer based in the UK, estimated that 10 per cent of 3-D prints made in the UK end up in the rubbish heap. Considering the number of machines and their output, about 279,000 kilograms of plastic were wasted. And that’s in just one small corner of the world.

These issues stand a good chance of being solved as artisans continue to experiment with the burgeoning technology. And 3-D printing also has the potential to help achieve another environmental goal: reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-haul shipping. Proponents hope that, as more printing labs pop up around the world, designers will simply email files to faraway facilities to be manufactured. That way, oversized chairs and sofas could be created locally, not shipped on freighters overseas or driven distances cross-country.

Such ambitions, like many problems and limitations in the 3-D-printing space, depend entirely on research and innovation. It’s an imperfect system, at least for now, but for its devotees, there’s little alternative—3-D printing is the future. “Design has to be mind-blowing,” says Jiménez. “Otherwise it’s not worth it.”

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Watches & Wonders 2024 Showcase: Laurent Ferrier

We head to Geneva for the Watches & Wonders exhibition; a week-long horological blockbuster featuring the hottest new drops, and no shortage of hype.

By Josh Bozin 18/07/2024

With Watches & Wonders 2024 well and truly behind us, this week we look at Laurent Ferrier, a brand hailing from Geneva.

LAURENT FERRIER

Laurent Ferrier Classic Moon

The 63-year-old, third-generation independent watchmaker continues the tradition of his Genevan ancestors. Since 2009, his namesake brand has thrived in an ultra-competitive industry thanks to his dedication to classical timepieces, assembled by hand, using the highest grade materials available.

The Laurent Ferrier Classic Moon builds on this storied heritage. The 40 mm dress watch (the brand’s first moonphase complication) is available in silver with a blue-ish dial, or rose gold with a brushed silver dial. It salutes the vintage dress watches of yesteryear with Roman numerals and baton-shaped indices; vintage-inspired date numbers; Assegai-shaped hour, minute, and date hands; a double moonphase; and a pebble-shaped case reminiscent of 19th-century pocket watches. 

The attention to detail continues with an attractive subdial made of Murano aventurine glass, engraved in moon and star motifs and hand-applied white paint details. The engraving is also hand-filled with Super-LumiNova, while the subdial is covered with a translucent disc in petrol-blue enamel.

At roughly a $116,000 starting price, it may deter those who would rather invest in a dress watch from, say, Patek Philippe. But the Classic Moon certainly captures the charm of this style of timepiece, and those willing to support the self-sustaining Swiss brand won’t be disappointed with the result. This a timepiece made to the highest levels of craftsmanship—and a fitting climax to a week spent in the horological heaven that is Watches & Wonders.

laurentferrier.ch

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Bay Watch 

After losing its lustre for decades, Sydney’s Double Bay is undergoing a renaissance. And with harbour views, lush parks and a friendly village feel, it’s no wonder luxury developments are flourishing.

By Horacio Silva 16/07/2024

The boarded storefronts on the strip of New South Head Road in Double Bay currently under construction near Cross Street are plastered with archival images of the harbourside suburb in its 1960s and 1970s heyday. In the grainy black-and-white images, passers-by dressed in their imported European finery inhabit the bustling streets and fashionable shopping destinations of the time, including Mark Foy’s department store on Knox Street and the chic boutiques of Claire Handler, Maria Finlay and Nellie Vida—three Hungarian expats who sourced the latest trends from the Continent for style-starved locals. 

The images serve as a reminder of an era when European designers dictated the style for modish Australians. They’re also a document of how much this prestigious enclave, located 11 minutes’ drive from the CBD and a snow-cone’s throw from some of Sydney’s best beaches, has changed.

The area’s once-thriving boutiques are a thing of the past, replaced by all manner of beauty-focused establishments. Gone too are the open-air dances in Steyne Park, the old Hoyts Theatre (an Art Deco gem of a building on the main drag that was the nexus of the community) and the illegal casino a few doors down from it called the Double Bay Bridge Club.

Which is not to say that this once-sleepy hollow, whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed in the last 50 years, has become the profligate relic that detractors, who pilloried it as “Double Pay”, predicted it would become after it fell from favour over the past few decades. Far from it. “There’s only one Double Bay,” says Angela Belle McSweeney, director of Australian Turf Club and a former public relations maven whose office was located for years on Knox Street, above the famed 21 restaurant.  “In terms of Australian glamour, it’s always been the benchmark and now more than ever.”

Joseph Hkeik, the owner of All Saint Clinic, which caters to the taut skin of the city’s high society, concurs. “There really is something palpable in the air,” says Hkeik, who is in as good a position as any to talk about the changing face of the place.

“A lot is happening, and everyone wants to be seen in Double Bay. It’s the hotspot of Sydney.”

All Saint Clinic

If Double Bay is once again the talk of the town, it’s in no small part due to chef and restaurateur Neil Perry. After stepping away in early 2020 as founder of the Rockpool Group, through which he created legendary restaurants such as Rockpool and Spice Temple, Perry resurfaced a few months later with plans to start anew on the prized willow-festooned corner of Bay Street and Guilfoyle Avenue. In June 2021, he opened his award-winning seafood restaurant Margaret, and soon after, the adjacent bar Next Door and the Baker Bleu bakery two premises along.

He has not looked back. The fat cats today may be younger than the potentates who used to frequent the area’s old stamping grounds like George’s and the Hunter’s Lodge, and the ladies who lunch are more “wind-swept” than their pre-Botox predecessors, but the Lamborghinis and Ferraris parked nearby suggest that this is once again where the elite meet to eat.

“It is definitely going through a renaissance,” says Perry of his new domain, “but I honestly think it’ll be more than a passing moment. Double Bay has the beautiful parks and waterfront, and for all the glitz it also has that village atmosphere close to the city that everyone wants. And there is so much investment in the place.” That’s somewhat of an understatement.

Originally earmarked to be the site of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens when it was settled in the 1820s, the suburb remains as green as ever, but these days it’s hard to see the trees for all the construction cranes. 

On Bay Street alone, real estate powerhouse Fortis has broken ground on mixed-use properties that are among the city’s most hotly anticipated new addresses. Of the new developments, perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Ruby House, a luxury five-storey strata office block on the corner of New South Head Road and Bay Street, due for completion in early 2025. A collaboration of luminaries, including Lawton Hurley as lead architects and interiors by Woods Bagot, Ruby House will offer a range of sun- dappled office spaces, ranging from 60–550 m², with starting prices around $3 million. The ground floor will feature retail spaces, as well as three best-in-class restaurants, adding more culinary heft to a street that already includes Bibo, Matteo and Tanuki.

Ruby House

“Our vision for Double Bay is to bring life back into this once-great suburb,” says Charles Mellick, director of Fortis, “and to create a vibrant precinct that is seen as the most sought-after neighbourhood in Sydney, if not all of Australia.” Big call, indeed. And yet take a stroll along the suburb’s verdant paths and suddenly Mellick’s words do not feel so hyperbolic. A few doors down from Ruby House, 24 Bay St is slated to open this August in the heritage- listed modernist masterpiece, Gaden House, designed by Neville Gruzman, a former Mayor of Woollahra and one of Sydney’s most influential 20th-century architects. Fortis is also teaming with architects Lawton Hurley on the building, which will house Song Bird, Neil Perry’s (does this man ever sleep?) new three-storey, 230-seat Cantonese restaurant. Underground will be the speakeasy Bobbie’s, helmed by Linden Pride of Caffe Dante in New York, voted best bar in the world in 2019. 

“Double Bay used to have two of the best Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Perry, referring to the defunct Cleveland and Imperial Peking. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with Song Bird so it’s going to be great to continue that tradition.”

Across the street at 19-27 Bay Street, the first flagship RH Gallery, formerly Restoration Hardware, is also under construction. A five-level commercial building, opening in late 2025, it will house bespoke luxury home furnishings and a rooftop restaurant not unlike the company’s jumping location in New York’s Meatpacking District. Meanwhile, a few blocks over on Cross Street, Ode—a luxury tower developed by Top Spring Australia—is slated to open in 2025 next to the InterContinental Hotel (itself recently sold and being reimagined to include top-floor apartments and retail). Designed by Luigi Rosselli Architects, Ode’s 15 spacious residences and penthouses, with shimmering harbour views, are being eagerly contested by the one percent, with two of the three penthouses already being bought off-plan for $21.5 and $24.9 million.

Ode, Double Bay

For all the positivity, and dollars, swirling around the suburb, there is no cast-iron guarantee that these new commercial opportunities will help rekindle the moribund boutique scene and return Double Bay to its former fashionable standing. It’s been a while since Claire Handler and her Hungarian cohorts made cash registers sing.

As such, not everyone is convinced about the suburb’s supposed rebirth. “The rents in this area are astronomical as it is,” says Tony Yeldham, the legendary menswear impresario who opened his Squire Shop for discerning gentlemen as a teenager in 1956. “It’s going to be near impossible for smaller players to stay alive, but I’ve seen this area go through so many ups and downs so I’m hopeful if sceptical.” For the most part, the locals remain sanguine about the area’s potential, with one proviso. As Joseph Hkeik explains, “We just need these lovely builders to finish up so we can all get some peace and quiet.”

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The Finer Things

Shimmering with gold, diamonds and precious stones, these women’s watches represent the pinnacle of haute horology. Just look at them…

By Belinda Aucott-christie And Josh Bozin 16/07/2024

Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, Piaget, Chopard and Cartier were among the prestige brands to unveil women’s novelties at this year’s Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva. Here we review some of our favourites, including a new style from Bulgari who impressed via an artistic collaboration with architect Tadao Ando and Chanel whose latest bobbin cuff was inspired by a spool of thread.

BULGARI

Tadao Ando Serpenti

The brand’s collaboration with lauded Japanese architect Tadao Ando artfully remixes the enduring Serpenti Tubogas model. The collection celebrates the four seasons; pictured here is the Summer (natsu) with a two-tone, yellow-gold-and-steel bracelet and a green aventurine dial. $27,600. Availability on request; Bulgari.com

VAN CLEEF AND ARPELS

Lady Arpels Brise d’Été 

The maison’s Poetic Complications novelties ensure that telling the time becomes a spectacle. On this occasion, the flowers on the dial blossom and close in a randomised pattern at the touch of a button. Van Cleef & Arpels’ latest lesson in horological theatre was four years in development, with the dial alone taking 40 hours to master. Price and availability on request; vancleefandarpels.com

CHANEL

Bobbin Cuff Couture

Playing on the vintage “secret” watches of the 1920s, the Bobbin Cuff Couture was inspired aesthetically by a spool of thread. The idiosyncratic jewellery-watch is crafted entirely in 18-karat yellow gold, set with rows of brilliant-cut diamond “threads” and a 17-carat emerald-cut sapphire that hides the watch face. Price and availability on request. Chanel.com

PIAGET 

Limelight Gala Precious 

At 26 mm, a timepiece that captures the poise and elegance that has come to define Piaget’s jewellery watches. Now, with the inclusion of 38 brilliant-cut diamonds, the 18-karat rose gold “Decor Palace” dial and matching bracelet, this Limelight Gala is arguably the best of a collection that interweaves art, design and jewellery, with an emphasis on beauty. Around $118,500. Availability on request; Piaget.com

CHOPARD 

L’Heure  Du Diamant Round 

Chopard showcases its smarts in the art of diamond setting. Here, the maison’s artisans have orchestrated an amalgamation of contemporary design and alluring precious stones. The green malachite dial is a standout feature, as is the Chopard MD29 hand-wound mechanical movement. Price and availability on request; Chopard.com

CARTIER 

La Panthère de Cartier

From one of the brand’s most symbolic collections, this iteration of the Panthère de Cartier watch is designed in a rhodium-finish white gold case set with 136 brilliant-cut diamonds, and a rhodium-finish white gold panther head set with 297 brilliant-cut diamonds. The striking, pear-shaped eyes are crafted from emerald. Price and availability on request; cartier.com

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Marc Newson Has Designed Everything from Pens to Superyachts … Now He Wants to Go to Space

On the heels of a new career-spanning book, the industrial designer and Apple alum shares his ultimate design project.

By Lee Carter 16/07/2024

Sporting shades, Marc Newson reclines on a sunny terrace of his Greek island retreat. If he appears exultant, he has every reason to be. Devoting his life’s work to elevating everyday objects into items we covet, Newson has become one of the most sought-after industrial designers in the world.

Case in point, Newson has just returned from Salone del Mobile, the sprawling design fair in Milan, where he launched a colossal book about his equally colossal career, signing copies for devoted fans barely able to lift it.

Over 400 pages, the monograph chronicles Newson’s nearly four decades in design from his start as a jewelry major at Sydney College of the Arts to producing avant-garde furnishings to now crafting luxury speed boats for Riva and even a concept plane in an art project for the Fondation Cartier. All told, Marc Newson: Works 84–24 (Taschen) is a testament to his tireless pursuit of perfection.

Asked to reflect on 40 years of soaring success, the Australian designer all but blushes—or perhaps it’s the Mediterranean sun. “When I look at my own work,” he says, “particularly in the context of a document that begins and ends, it almost feels like I’m reading about someone else.” After all, he demurs, he’s only doing his job. “The core of my occupation is troubleshooting [and] problem-solving. I apply the same rigor, process, and rules to every project, whether it’s a pen or a mega-yacht.”

Marc Newson’s Horizon luggage, designed for Louis Vuitton, and his Orgone chair demonstrate the importance he puts on curves. Taschen

The Newson look is aesthetically niche, but touches almost every sector, from fashion to household goods. It’s bold yet pragmatic, sumptuous yet futuristic, reverential yet iconoclastic. A transparent timepiece for Jaeger-LeCoultre, a sensuously curved cognac bottle for Hennessy, and a sleek aluminum luggage collaboration with Louis Vuitton (the latest of which just appeared in Pharrell Williams’s spring 2025 collection) all point to a singular, forward-looking vision. Or how about the katana sword he created in 2019 with a ninth-generation master swordsmith in Japan? He calls the tradition and sophistication required to execute that work “unfathomable, almost alchemical, practically spiritual.”

Two decades ago, in 2004, he created the Zvezdochka sneaker for Nike. Modelled entirely on a computer and made from a single piece of injection-molded resin, the footwear—named after the 1961 rocket-riding Russian dog—was intended for astronauts to wear during their daily exercises in zero gravity. As Newson notes, “Where else would you need the perfect sneakers but running on a treadmill in space?”

Newson’s groundbreaking Lockheed Martin Chaise.
Taschen

From the beginning, Newson—who helped lead Apple’s design department, and the development of key products such as the Apple Watch, for five years—has always possessed the unusual ability to bend ideas about design to his will. His Lockheed Lounge, a shapely chaise pieced together from curved aluminum panels, became an instant phenomenon with its 1988 introduction. Named for its resemblance to the early aeronautical stylings of Lockheed Martin, the furniture piece bucked the reductive ethos of modern design at the time. In 2006, it broke the record for the highest price paid at auction for the work of a living designer, topping that price 11 years later in 2015, going for $3.7 million at Phillips London.

Around the turn of the millennium, Newson—a vintage sports car enthusiast who once flew to the U.S. to purchase a 1959 Aston Martin DB4 with the entirety of a paycheck—shifted gears to focus his energies on the transportation sector. Asked by Ford to jot down some concepts, he came up with the 021C in 1999. A radically simplified three-box configuration, the model had a main cabin, hood, and trunk; the latter two sections were mirror images.

The Ford 021C, which Newson claimed caused “a lot of head-scratching” at the American car company.
Taschen

“It was utterly ridiculous and childlike,” Newson says of the design with a laugh. “There was a lot of head-scratching [at Ford], but I reasoned that since I’m not an automotive designer, I don’t want to and can’t play the typical automotive games.” Thanks to the support of Ford’s “brilliantly curious and open” top brass, the cartoon of a car became a drivable reality and a beloved Newson fan favorite. Soon after the release of the 021C, the Australian airline Qantas came knocking, seeking Newson’s design eye for a variety of projects, including the interiors of its airport lounges and, more challengingly, the invention of a fully horizontal bed for its premier passengers on long-haul flights. No small feat of imagination, this triumph led to his appointment as the company’s creative director.

The Qantas Skybed, designed for the Australian airline’s long-haul flights. Qantas

As Newson’s fame ascended, so did the demand for his work—in the design industry and beyond. New York gallerist Larry Gagosian was quick to add the maverick designer to his roster of art stars, such as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, and Michael Heizer, and in 2007, he mounted Newson’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., featuring a limited-edition, experimental furniture series. “The stuff I do with Gagosian is not exactly mainstream design,” Newson says. “They’re these sort of rarefied follies [or] crazy experiments that I concoct. I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself—and perhaps Larry.” One object in the exhibition was a nickel surfboard with a storied lineage. “I wanted the prototype to be tested by [professional big wave surfer] Garrett McNamara,” Newson recalls. “He took the board to a Pacific island notorious for its huge swells on top of a coral reef. He actually lost the board in the waves and was driving back to his hotel when he saw a local with this tangled mass of metal under his arm. The story goes that the Mir space station had plummeted into the ocean the day before, and this guy thought he had found pieces from the crash. He had no idea it was a crushed surfboard.”

Is there a project he has yet to tackle? “Every time I think I’m at the end of the list,” he says, smiling, “I think of something new.” Space, for instance. “I would love to work more extensively in the area of space exploration. That is something I continue to find compelling and fascinating. It ticks all the boxes for me in terms of engaging with technology, incredible processes, and modern materials. And, of course, I would love to go to space. That’s the end game.”

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Piaget Just Dropped a Colourful High-Jewellery Line with 1970s Style

“Essence of Extraleganza,” a fusion of the words extravagance and elegance, is a tour de force of haute joaillerie that celebrates Piaget’s 150th year.

By Victoria Gomelsky 16/07/2024

Long before Piaget was a jeweller, it was a watchmaker. The luxury brand traces its roots to La Côte-aux-Fées, a village in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where Georges-Édouard Piaget founded a movement-making company in 1874.

In 1959, the maison introduced jewellery for the first time, showcasing its creations at the new Salon Piaget in Geneva. Almost immediately, the brand established itself as a trendsetter across both realms.

Piaget

Proof that the watchmaker-turned-jeweller continues to occupy the most rarefied precincts of the luxury trade arrived last month, when Piaget unveiled its “Essence of Extraleganza” high jewellery collection. The third and arguably most spectacular of the brand’s 150th anniversary product introductions (following the reboot in February of its Piaget Polo 79 timepiece and the April unveiling of the thinner-than-thou Altiplano Ultimate Concept Flying Tourbillon), the collection of 96 jewels and bejewelled timepieces is a tour de force of craftsmanship and gem-setting that bears an explicit connection to Piaget’s roots in jewellery.

“Of our three major launches this year to date, none of them have just been a launch — each and every one of them has hinged on a product, a story, a saga bringing the past and present together,” Benjamin Comar, CEO of Piaget, tells Robb Report.

Piaget

“So of course, this high jewellery collection had to bring more density than a regular collection. And this is why it’s called ‘Essence of Extraleganza’ — because through these 96 pieces, Piaget’s artistic director, Stéphanie Sivrière, went back to the Piaget DNA, to the moment when Piaget evolved from watchmaker to jeweller, to the decisive moment where this Swiss maison decided to revolutionise the watch world by imagining a new avant-garde vocabulary, filled with colours, textures and gold: the 21st Century Collection.”

That collection, introduced in 1969, included an array of jewellery watches that reimagined how to wear time. From metal bracelets with a fabric-like texture to swinging sautoirs, the pieces were bold, colourful and utterly of the moment.

Piaget

Three years ago, when Sivrière began working on what would become Essence of Extraleganza, she took her inspiration from those heritage designs of the 1960s and ’70s. The result is a stunning lineup of bold, cheerful and wildly original jewels, including highlights such as a necklace featuring a fiery cascade of trapezoid-cut carnelians set in rose gold and centered on a 21.23-carat cushion-cut spessartite garnet; a cuff watch loaded with 26.11 carats of baguette-cut Colombian emeralds; and a suite of blue-on-blue designs including a V-shaped necklace set with sapphires, tourmalines, and marquise-cut aquamarines surrounded by opals, turquoise and diamonds, along with a matching ring and pair of mismatched earrings.

Piaget

“Stephanie chose to highlight the couture inspiration of Piaget and paid homage to our chainmaker skills as a golden thread throughout the collection,” Comar says. “This was very impressive to witness unravelling in front of our eyes week after week. The carnelian necklace, for instance, was created like a never-ending puzzle: first the mesh structure completely hand-woven, then every hue and piece identified by a number and patiently assembled to create this mix-and-match yet balanced effect.”

The throughline that connects the 2024 collection to the one introduced 55 years earlier is, undoubtedly, Piaget’s willingness to embrace modernity while employing traditional techniques in service of timeless designs.

“Piaget’s jewellery style is still coherent and that’s the beauty of it,” Comar says. “When Valentin Piaget asked his Swiss designers in the early Sixties to go to Paris in order to attend a couture show and get inspired by this fashion revolution (think Cardin, Courrèges, Twiggy) this was so incredibly new for the time. And today, when we look at their past gouaches where they would create the swinging sautoirs directly on the glossy pages of the fashion magazines to really picture what this woman would be wearing today, it’s so modern. And still has the same effect today: timeless yet modern. That is the Piaget paradox.”

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