Designing the Surface

With the theme Patina we take a look at a finish that under normal circumstances would not require any human intervention. Patina evolves under the influence of climate, sunlight or chemicals, and is heavily dependent on the passing of time. The concept is linked to the antiquity and authenticity of objects, that then become more valuable, while patina is in fact the result of wear and tear.

In another installation – LustreDesigning the Surface exposes the glistening coatings that afford products their irresistible glare and sparkle. Nowhere is our love for the treated surface as easy to trace as in the centuries-old obsession with the polished object. Not only on the part of those who buy these products but just as much for their makers and designers. Whilst some treatments are closely tied up with recent developments in the high-tech industry, the history of the theme lustre goes back much further than this.

We associate imitation materials primarily with the field of decorative painting techniques. Highly skilled craftsmen would mimic marble or rare tropical woods on top of panels made of simple pine or poplar. The theme Faux looks first and foremost at the qualities of this cosmetic layer, that in the traditions of decorative painting was not associated with cheap imitation but rather with mastership.

With the next theme, Agency our point of view shifts to the most commonplace and therefore also democratic application of the finish: the use of paint on walls and objects. Very little skill or knowledge is required to pick up some brushes and a pot of paint and leave your personal mark on a space. This is true of both domestic interiors and public space.

What determines a product’s appeal, function and identity? Increasingly it is the finish that designers employ not only to beautify a product, but also to strengthen, preserve or disguise it. The last layer can simulate ageing, form an impenetrable shell or function as a convincing imitation of craftsmanship.

Designing the Surface, an exhibition where the final topcoat targets the senses, investigates a compendium of artefacts over five sets: lustre, patina, faux, teflon and agency. Surfaces are full of contradictions; declarations of falsehood and denials. Chairs lie. Dashboards deceive. Take a look into the transformation of products – trying to survive in the design world, where nothing is what is seems.