The Israeli-born, London-educated Ron Arad seems to like a wide playing field. You probably recognize his plastic Bookworm shelf, Kartell's bestselling product, but might be surprised to see its fluid form echoed in the structure of a monumental building, Arad's design for the Holon Design Museum in Israel, scheduled for completion in mid-2007. Yup, Arad designs products, furniture, exhibitions, commercial spaces, and builldings. He's a jack of all design trades, his works united by a playful formalism and a defiance of conventional material limitations.
The Bookworm is a good example of Arad's materials-driven design process: he started by experimenting with a ribbon of tempered steel, developed a high-end, limited edition snake of a bookshelf, and then figured out how to mass produce it using plastic. And voila, an icon of contemporary product design.
OK, maybe not voila. Surely Kartell's established name and vast distribution know-how had something to do with it. But the point stands ... and loops ... and twirls. Arad takes an artist's delight in shapes and materials but roots this exploration in the practical, utilitarian drivers of applied design.
Take the Bad Tempered Chair. A twist of glass, carbon and kevlar fabric laminated in resin, it looks like the chair you might be asked to sit in after misbehaving, but is actually flexible and reputed to be quite comfortable.
Ditto the more accessible Tom Vac and T.Rock chairs, which update the Eames shell chairs nicely with corrugated plastic.
In addition to running a design studio and architectural practice, Arad teaches and does conceptual installations. We're quite taken with a site-specific funhouse he created for Art Basel Miami Beach called Paved with Good Intentions, consisting of a maze of amoeba-like mirrored tables that appear to float throughout the space. Arad's studio website is here.
And Art Info's interview with Ron Arad is here.