Army of Shadows

These products and projects flirt with the dark side of design.

Today’s 24-hour lifestyle means that many contemporary spaces—stores, offices, even entire city blocks—are flooded with artificial light round the clock. Of course, such ubiquitous lighting comes at the expense of some old-fashioned pleasures (like, say, a full night’s sleep). One often neglected loss is the humble shadow, which amid the cold glow of energy-efficient fluorescents some­times seems to have been banished to Groundhog Day festivities and the chiaroscuro of classic films (The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, anyone?). Thankfully, a new generation of artists and designers is proposing objects and installations that take advantage of shadow play. A lamp by the Swedish collective Front, for example, displays shady decorations on its globe surface. Brooklyn-based Adam Frank has developed a projector that simulates sunlight streaming through a window. And earlier this year Jean Nouvel experimented with Corian in his temporary loft space in Milan, using techniques such as reverse printing and CNC milling to create surfaces that come to life in darkness. Together, these products and projects signal a move away from the object itself toward the effect it produces—and demonstrate that the play of light and shadow is worth preserving.

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