mixing and scratching

I was reluctant to upload this entry; partly because it uses a quote from What Is Architecture? which will also be included in a future write up I’m working on, but also because I’m in danger of looking like I’m on the payroll at Icon magazine, since this is the third item I’ve lifted from its pages in the last few weeks.

I can’t resist – you know how much I enjoy confluences of events and ideas. First, whilst making notes on Paul Shepheard’s What Is Architecture? on the tram this morning, I took down his comments about camouflage.

Those stealth bombers are not painted black to evoke menace, or to disappear into the night: this is ablative black. The paint is full of ferrite particles that absorb radar energy and make the machines harder for the other side’s radar to see.

It’s difficult to see how character survives in such an environment. Here’s an example: the big black submarines that cruise under the Atlantic Ocean are invisible, and apparently anonymous. But throughout the life of the machine, the hull picks up dents and scratches exclusive to itself, and consequently the sonar signature of each machine is slightly different. It acquires character through use.

I was struck by the common ground between us on the subject of character. Upon arriving at work I was greeted by my shiny new copy of Icon. Inside is an interview with Maarten Baas about a project of his called Smoke.

Smoke has its roots in a conceptual project he embarked on while at college. “I was thinking about beauty and perfection,” he explains. “When we talk about perfection [in design] we normally think about things that are smooth and symmetrical. Yet we call nature perfect, although a landscape of rocks is not smooth and symmetrical at all. How come we like that as well? If you have a scratch on your car you want to polish it away. But don’t scratches make a product richer? Or if something breaks off, isn’t this new shape also a perfect shape?

Smoke involves the burning, charring and disfiguring of furniture, which is then resealed with resin and sold again. The images of iconic furniture engulfed in flames are worryingly compelling.

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