The 2020 edition of Ambiente came face to face with the inevitability of the future. In many aspects designers find themselves in a position where they have to navigate and adapt through rapidly shifting values and demands of the world. At the world's biggest trade fair, conscious designs, carefully thought out and manufactured commodoties to leave minimal impact and waste, took centre stage.
It's a very strange time to be putting out a piece about the new and exciting finds of the consumer world, nonetheless it's all the more the appropriate time to the wonders of the human ability–our creativity, what excites us and puts us in awe, and the good intentions in people to make the world a better place. Perhaps this can be a refreshing reminder of what determined minds are capable of. Here we revisited the sprawling grounds of Ambiente and picked out some of our favourite finds of the year.
These quirky yet highly practical homeware goods are by Berlin-based brand Fundamental. Known for furniture, accessories and artworks inspired by the mathematical principles and the geometry of nature, Fundamental was founded by architects Steve Molloy and Gunnar Rönsch in 2011 by a shared passion for intelligent design. They look at patterns and forms that occur in the natural world, using them as starting points for all designs.
Their GRAVITY dish, a gridded centrepiece, was a clear favourite among fair goers, with its intricately cross-wired pattern, the bowl reminds one of a sketching of a black hole.
PUSH, a collection of cleverly flat-packed metal plates that can be easily customised into dishes of different depths and shapes. By gently applying pressure on its pliable titanium triangular-shaped folds, the flat plates are transformed into little vessels of varying depths to store valuable trinkets.
Homegrown practice Yellowdot Design was selected to join this year's talent lineup, and brought with them their whimsical collection of storage units, Momento. Visually reminiscent of soap bubbles, the collection is an allegory to the ephemerality of memories and explores practical and visually impactful ways of storing keepsakes.
Their Bubble Capsules, colourful iridescent glass orbs made for the storage of small-sized belongings, reminds us of the gachapon, the once ubiquitous capsule toy vending machines that were a delightful childhood memory of many.
The range of fitness devices by Berlin-based studio Kenko looks starly different from the monotonous plastic equipment we are used to working out with. Founded in 2017 by interior design students and sport-lovers Fritz Grospietsch and Andreas Bachmann, the duo takes their design cues from the Japanese holistic approach to wellness, as suggested in the brand's name, which translates to "health" in Japanese.
The sleek, minimalistic gym equipment range is made of natural wood and cork, whittled into unique geometrical forms and finished with brass detailing. Each of their aerobic dumbbells features a weighted iron core covered in dark, cylindrical walnut exterior that makes for a sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing tool. The range also includes expanders, abdominal rollers, push-up bars and massage balls.
Weaved from its norweigen roots, HEYMAT's weather-proof floor mats are made of 100 percent recycled plastic. Introducing the HEYMAT+ collection at the fair, the design of these rugs takes inspiration from the natural surroundings of the nordic country, and features an unassuming, largely monochromatic palette.
The patterns that emerge from the mats' surfaces is a meditative nod to the soft sand of a Japanese Zen garden, or the stirred waters of the fjords. While such three-dimensional patterns promote a balance, calm and harmonious vibe, they also act as a dirt attracting, absorbent brush.
Aarhus-based furniture brand LIND DNA was founded in 2013 with the ambition to inspire consumers with table setting products and interior concepts and to rethink interior design products from a sustainable perspective.Produced locally in a zero-waste environment, these leather goods are made to last and add an minimalist industrial texture to a home space. The brand uses surplus leather from making furniture, bags and shoes, pressed together with natural rubber for a range of tableware, mats and home accessories.
While excess packaging is widely considered wasteful these days, there are certain commodities when packaging is still necessary/ Bachelor students of the Faculty of Design at the HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim collaborated with Dutch packaging manufacturer PaperFoam to discuss and design possible applications and scenarios for its environmentally friendly single use packaging material. “Rethinking PaperFoam” is the title of these sustainable, single-use items.
Made out of a foam paper material consisting of starch, cellulose and a patented mixture of additives, these items are 100% compostable and degrade completely within a few weeks in a natural environment, or can be recycled with paper. Despite that it is surprisingly sturdy, and can act as a quick packaging solution to daily goods such as fresh produce. The students reinterpreted the material in innovative consumer goods, such as a modular advent calendar and a mask-making kit for children birthday parties.
A highlight of this year’s Ambiente is the launch of a dedicated presentation, Focus on Design, which showcases products and the design insights of a specific country. Brasil has been selected this year, and five of its design studios have been invited to showcase their creative output at the fair. One that caught our eyes was Bianca Barbato from São Paulo, who specialises in developing furniture and lighting.
Her Lixo collection, which literally translates to "trash" in English, consists of absurdly shaped brass table lamps that were the result of moulding inside discarded plastic bottles, Barbatos own playful sarcasm on her hometown's lack of recycling regulations.
Another Brasilian designer, Sérgio J. Matos, works to preserve traditional Brazilian craft from his country, and tries to make a point of crafting by hand in an age of industrial and digital manufacturing, whenever he can. His furniture products emphasise heavily on the use of natural materials, bold colours and sinuous forms that is inherent in his country's design culture.
These porcelains by Additive Addicted explores the interface between materials research and development, combining the use of coding and various computer-aided manufacturing procedures, they produce unique, one-of-kind, fluid looking ceramic products. The studio advocates the potential and fluidity of 3d-printing, apart from producing and distributing customisable ceramic objects, it also utilises its expertise to offer workshops to share knowledge through education.
Studio anima ona straddles the line between practical design and research. Their Shape of Colour rug, an abstract looking, 3D-printed twist on their traditionally hand-woven counterparts. Covered on one side with a highly liquid-proof, silk lined material that is spotted with a gridded, reptilian pattern, its reverse side is printed structurally onto textiles, using a printing technology dubbed "GRDXKN" by the studio, which gives a three dimensional texture that lends to the rugs' acoustic insulation and anti-slip properties. Their reflection on the technical possibilities of design is at the core of the brand, and they are now looking to expand the opportunities of this particular technique and production methods to other forms of design. As co-founder Freia Achenbach explains, "Innovation is an important part of the process. So normally a carpet takes 900 hours to make, in a traditional handmade process. This is a new process using laser-cut stencils, and you can do whatever the pattern you want."
Household German porcelain brand KAHLA showcased their new RFID smart digital porcelain series at the trade fair. Each of the series' porcelain cup carries dishwasher-proof, sealed NFC transponders, which can be read out using a smartphone.
This multi-sensory, interactive upgrade gives KAHLA's porcelain goods an option to be customised with personal messages, product information and even games. Each porcelain product comes with a personal cloud account, and can be individually programmed to suit a particular demographic, region or collective.The 2020 edition of Ambiente brought together more than 108,000 visitors from 160 countries, which the organiser noted was a significant reduction from last year's numbers, impacted directly from the threats of the coronavirus, as well as a raging storm that occurred throughout the fair's weekend, which paralysed air and rail traffic in Germany and parts of Europe. The next edition of Ambiente is set to return to the messe frankfurt grounds from Feb 19 to 23 in 2021.