After appearing as a hologram around the world during the pandemic, Tom Dixon reverted to a more traditional approach to mark his eponymous brand turning 20. During Milan Design Week, he kicked off the celebrations with an exhibition in Sotheby’s stunning Palazzo, showcasing prototypes and experiments he has worked on through the years. His latest product launches, which focussed on new finishes and materials, were on display in the brand’s restaurant and showroom, The Manzoni, in the city centre. Back in London, the designer showed our guests the product highlights presented in Italy and shared his latest material obsessions.
He explained how his team are challenging themselves and their manufacturing partners to reduce their impact on the environment. As an example, he pointed out his new prototype of the Mirror Ball chandelier made from 100% recycled polycarbonate.
Another continuous fascination of the always curious designer is dichroic effects. The emergence of modern dichroic thin film filters, which split white light into its component colours, is the work of NASA. “When we looked at updating Melt – our most successful lamp, rather than offering a new shape, a new size, or a new colour, we decided instead to filter the light with a dichroic filter,” Tom Dixon explains. This coating channels the light of the LED driver into constituent parts of the spectrum, intensifying the chromatic boost to emphasise the space-age aesthetic.
Tom Dixon also talked about how he is intrigued by the work of Wolf Hilbertz, a scientist active in radical architecture and conservation in the 1970s who had been working on a proposal for growing cities underwater. He helped develop a process to create artificial reefs and speed up the coral growth rate using a technique called Biorock. Tom Dixon is currently exploring whether growing furniture underwater could work – and somewhere in the Bahamas, the Accretion chairs are now in their third year of aquaculture, almost ready to be shown to the world.
Switching to items currently in production, Tom Dixon highlighted his furniture collection made from cork, a material whose qualities the restless creator adores as it lends itself to creating solid sculptural pieces. He also mentioned a new version of the Bird chair which will be made out of eelgrass. Traditionally used to thatch roofs, a cross-disciplinary team including Danish architects, engineers and thatchers reinvented the grass as material for acoustic insulation and upholstery mats. In collaboration with the material producer Søuld, Tom Dixon used the material as a substitute for petrochemical-based materials.
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