Tim van Cromvoirt doesn’t have a background in biology, but the Dutch designer has spent the past few years breathing new life into inanimate home decor. “When I started to work with electronics and software, I saw the resemblance back in nature and living systems,” he tells Co.Design. “So I started to study these new themes, particularly the life processes of organisms. For me it is important that a work can change or transform in time, whether it’s fast or slow.” Thermophores are the result of this research–wall art that looks like a coral reef, and reacts to heat by changing color.
“My starting point was to create a design organism that would make use of a simple chemical reaction,” van Cromvoirt tells Co.Design. At this early stage he had no idea what that would be–what it would look like, and how he’d make it–so he took to the studio to begin experimentation. “The only condition was that the chemical reaction was reversible, and that it had to be something visual.” His first idea was moss-like, a structure that would look like it was growing; trial and error led him to flattened forms, which he eventually manipulated into the coral-like final product. “It is very hard to imitate randomness of nature–something will look manmade very quickly,” he says.
The Thermophores themselves are hard, and the crystal-like outcroppings are incredibly fragile; apart from those tactile tidbits, however, van Cromvoirt’s keeping mum on their specific composition. “What I can say is that the material can absorb and conduct heat easily and can retain it for a period of time.”
Heat–not light–triggers a chromatic transformation. The hues will evolve over the course of a day depending on the placement of the piece; so, on a bright afternoon as the sun’s rays make their way across the wall, Thermophores will follow their lead (though eventually the chemical reactions will cease and they’ll settle into a permanent color). And while van Cromvoirt admits that any warmth will elicit a reaction, a natural source, like the sun, stays truest to the project’s heart and soul. “That makes the process really 100% autonomous–no extra electricity or energy is added.”
And therein lies what is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of his Thermophores–they are, essentially, hypercolor decor. Consider them alongside Naked and Famous’s recently unveiled hypercolor denim, and we’re just one more color-shifting project away from a bonafide trend.
To purchase your own Thermophores, contact Tim directly via his site.