Author: Giulia Fioravera
During the first two weeks of August many space experts met in Honolulu, at the IAU general assembly, to discuss galaxies, the universe and space exploration.
They met and talked in front of a huge audience. The spectators weren’t only experts, as one could expect, but amateurs too.
This is a small example of how space has begun to interest ordinary people. However, we must also consider that this new-found curiosity and passion about the universe is getting more than a foothold. It is not only about knowing, reading, discovering, talking, discussing, watching and dreaming about space. It is also about buying into the topic.
Perhaps we are not yet completely aware of the mechanism behind the new trend of buying space-related objects and it would be nice to collect some more details.
As Nasa claims :”Human space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the Universe and the history of our solar system. Through addressing the challenges related to human space exploration we expand technology, create new industries, and help to foster a peaceful connection with other nations”.
It creates new industries although it also implies that already existing industries can start producing space-related objects to fulfill people’s needs –which still needs to be understood and developed further.
Everything started with prints and constellations. Pictures published by Nasa were reproduced on posters or prints or small accessories and in 2012 some blogs named the phenomenon the “constellation spell”.
Production has shifted from small accessories towards full outfits that commercialize more comprehensive aspects of the universe. The value of the produced objects has fortunately also increased, even though the trend has been varying from field to field:
- “Sky guide”, for instance, is a quite interesting application that shows the universe to users. Many interesting pieces of information about stars, planets, galaxies are also provided by the app, which boasts attractive visuals too. Applications like this are not new but “Sky Guide”–using high quality images and a good user-interface, allows people be fascinated by the experience of exploring space, highlighting that we are but a speck of dust in an immense and stunning universe.
- The research of cosmic sensations goes from application design to architecture. This revolutionary approach finds its roots in the XVIII century, when Étienne-Louis Boullée drew the ‘Newton cenotaph’, whose objective was to reproduce the universe’s immensity. At the time his project was considered as idealistic and revolutionary. Nowadays buildings with this kind of appearance have become more and more possible and normal.
We could also mention architecture projects such as ‘The national pantheon of the republic of Kazakhstan’. The combination of its shapes creates a dynamic complex that looks like a ‘galaxy’ when observed from above. This output originates by the analysis of the context, as the STUDIO 3PIU1, BICUADRO ARCHITETTI ASSOCIATI, O.C.R.A. states, and aims to create a place where all religions could be somewhat unified.
- Fashion is another area of interest. This year “Valentino” launched a new collection including dresses that are completely covered by reproductions and replications of planets and stars. Space inspired productions have reached the “haute couture” level.
- Graphic designers expressed themselves through illustrations and 3D pieces trying to help amateurs understand, for instance, the internal anatomy of planets.
- Art is worth being mentioned because some of the art pieces created in the last years have either a space related aesthetic or space itself as core theme.
From tiny contemporary art spaces like ‘Centrum’ that hosted in few month for up to two exhibitions on the theme (Annabel Hesselink–’Towards a new moon’– and Sebastian Bartel –’Constallations’) to main galleries (more infos on http://www.centrumberlin.com/previous-Exhibitions), the Berlin art scene seems very interested in space. The ‘Berlinische Galerie’ devolved a main room to the creations of Björn Dahlem in which the artist did not only observed the cosmos, but even tried to explain the scientific theories beyond physics and astronomy.
The list of fields can go further but maybe it is worth focusing on Industrial and product design.
One of the most famous design piece related to space was created in 1965 by the Italian designer Vico Magistretti. The lamp explored a new mode of operation, allowing the users to darken the light flow to their choosing.
Since then, lighting design turned its eyes to the sky and in particular towards the mechanisms of the universe. Designers attempt to emulate them. For instance, natural sunlight alterations brought into human scale is the idea behind the 2013 design award winning “Syzygy” lamp. The lamp works with a constant light source but, the three light filtering discs placed in front of it and their rotational combinations, mimic transit, occultation and eclipse.(more on: https://vimeo.com/33663376)
Another 2013-2014 design award winning lamp was born by the collaboration between the graphic designer Anna Farkas and the interior designer Miklos Batisz. The duo focused on the lamp as an art piece and manufacture by hand. The starry lamp reproduce the celestial constellations of the northern hemisphere’s equinoxes and solstice but it is actually possible to customize the product. This collection is visually presented as if every lamps can fit to a different kind of person or can–somehow–fulfill different people’s needs.
Lighting design is not the only niche considering space configuration as a main inspiration. A Taiwanese Studio –’Chi and Chi’- decided to design a set of table wear regarding the celestial-oriented thinking. The ‘gathering’ concept lead the studio from the beginning. The duo identified the way people get to know each other and the undetermined pattern behind this process and the harmony and diversity which rule the universe. They shifted this idea to patterns, shapes and geometries, without excluding functionality above aesthetic. ‘Chi and Chi’ used the space not only as a decorative feature but as core theme based on which a concept can be developed.
If we move to furniture design, the best example is the ‘Science Café & Library By Anna Wigandt’ (2014). The interior design project follows the Kepler’s solar system model and express it by taking advantage of geometry. (more on http://stemplusd.com/blog/interior-design/science-library-anna-wigandt-geometric-patterns/)
According to this short analysis, we can assume that designers used to take inspiration from space phenomena in order to create their work, but now are moving towards new creations that satisfy diverse public needs. Why do designers create such objects? Do they reflect their own interests or do they try to fulfill the end-users’ desires? Would the end-users really live in these space-furnished environments or buy objects with a forced aesthetic?
Why then? One of the reasons might be the human being’s necessity to get in touch with nature, and the nature that our planet earth offers us is not enough anymore. Perhaps it could be that human beings have a strong need of dreaming, and possessing space-related objects is a way to achieve that. It might be that our incapability of understanding the idea of an infinite universe may have lead us to the necessity of adapting the idea itself to be more comprehensible. Maybe in order to understand, people have–nowadays– to buy and possess something. After all, it’s clear why we explore the universe, but it is much harder to say why we express this through many different objects and products.