The Skins You’re In

Designers have more choices for creative surfaces than ever before.

Let’s all turn our attention to skin. Look around and you’ll see designers changing the relationship between the inside and outside of objects, clothes, and buildings, creating skins that give their designs substance, texture, and even symbolism.
At the same time, high-performing and environmentally friendly surfaces are more important than ever before—and more plentiful. Armstrong’s BioBased Tile, for example, is ten percent preconsumer recycled limestone that is sourced near the company’s manufacturing plant. And Smith & Fong’s latest Plyboo offerings are made from rapidly renewable bamboo to emulate the look of tortoiseshell and amber.

Surfaces are no longer simply hard or soft—they are reactive, breathable, pixelated, and even vegetal. Take Jean Nou­vel’s Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris: the exterior walls have vertical gardens, by Patrick Blanc, that not only improve air quality but provide green space without taking up square footage. Inside, the architect’s furniture, now in production by Molteni, is covered in textiles that have been laser-cut with geometric incisions and are supported by tubular steel frames. Think of surface as structure and ornament. The products and objects shown here—from Maharam’s whimsical Wafer textiles to Greg Lynn’s Barbarella-like The Duke and The Duchess chairs for Vitra—provide a sampler for designers to pick and choose from, and a snapshot of the surfaces that may soon blanket the landscape.

Recent Programs