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Joris Laarman’s Hamster-Cell Powered Lamps

Joris Laarman’s chairs grow like bones, his tables mimic leaves, and his lamps are powered by luminescent hamster cells. Is this science run amok or the future of design?

Joris Laarman says his bone-like creations are just furniture doing what comes naturally. “This is what a chair wants to be,” he says, settling briefly into a bit of alabaster artistry that looks like a dozen femurs welded together.

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Laarman, the very picture of a Dutch designer, with spiky hair, blue eyes, checked Keds, and dusty jeans, had taken a break from frantically painting gallery walls in a Sol LeWitt-like grid, to talk to us about his first U.S. solo show, which will open on Thursday.

Laarman’s next project is to take Cho cells from Chinese hamsters’ ovaries, infuse them with the enzyme that causes fireflies to glow, and turn them into bioluminscent lamps. Sadly, Laarman’s attempt to bring one to New York failed when the stress of  the trans-Atlantic trip proved too much for the little critters  “They’re dead,” says Benda. 

He’s also working on a table that embodies the form of a flock of 25,000 starlings in mid-flight, based on an algorithm that tracks birds’ flight patterns. And he’s toiling on a bookcase inspired by architects’ models, that captures the dissonance he feels between the virtual and actual worlds. “A digital world makes material and form disappear,” he says, with some regret. “This will be a monument for books before they, too, disappear.  As a designer, you want to make shape, not just an iPhone.”

Laarman is experimenting with a lower cost version of his chairs that might make it into commercial production, but the prospect of seeing his name on the shelf at Target is not what drives him. “I don’t do things with a goal in my head,” he says. “I just do them to discover things.”

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About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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