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The Glossy Look

Text: Anton Rahlwes

Human beings are surrounded by surfaces. They are the omnipresent barriers that one cannot avoid. In their eternal ambition to want to control everything, human beings smooth out as many surfaces as possible.

Meadows become manicured lawns, paths become streets, compressed carbon becomes sparkling diamonds and rough hide becomes shimmering Alcantara. Glossiness stands for purity and perfection, control down to the last atom. Digitisation fuels this ambition and also permits deceptively easy control of surfaces. Thus the glossy look is becoming more and more a part of everyday life.


Acne Studios



The collections of the Swedish fashion house Acne Studios can safely be considered an indicator of coming trends in questions of materiality, colour, and even dealing with gender roles. So it comes as no surprise that the collections for 2020 include numerous ultra-high-gloss pieces. In and of itself, the desire to wrap oneself in high-gloss materials is nothing new. Nevertheless, in view of the pollution of our environment and the oceans by plastic refuse, this trend reveals the ambivalent desire of human beings to adapt their own appearance to a material which is now subject to collective moral condemnation: Plastic bag? No, thanks. Looking like one? I’d be glad to.


Audrey Large



“The function then becomes the last bulwark against the total abstraction of the object”, thus the French designer Audrey Large describes the vase-like sculptures of her series “Implicit Surfaces”. The objects are hybrid crossovers between the real and the digital world. They initially originate with the help of a graphics tablet and are drawn by hand directly in the third dimension. This releases Large from the laws of gravity and permits her to design freely and intuitively. The actual texture of the surfaces reveals itself only when the object becomes a physical reality thanks to 3D printing. That way artefacts are created that exhibit both characteristics of spontaneous drawing and the coded aesthetics of the digital realm.


Omega Centauri



Adrian Steckeweh, also known as Omega Centauri, is an architect with a penchant for facefilters. He experiments with rendered shapes and surfaces that, sometimes seeming like living organisms, descend on the faces of the users. Glassy tentacles or bobbing mirrored surfaces consciously play with the contradiction between reality and fiction. According to Steckeweh, the shiny surfaces are difficult to implement in reality. As computer-generated images (CGI) or computer graphics (CG), however, the possibilities are boundless, and materials can be developed beyond reality. Nowadays, self-alienation is common in the virtual realm and may be the first step towards a new post-physical world.


Gonzalez und Haase AAS



The Berlin architectural office Gonzalez and Haase AAS is attracting a lot of attention at the moment. Whether in Milan (Spazio Maiocchi), at their neighbour Andreas Murkudis’s in Berlin, in Lisbon for the luxury label Tem-plate or worldwide for Balenciaga and Weekday: the office, which is headed by Judith Haase and Pierre Jorge Gonzalez, designs stores and retail spaces that characterise the perception of stationary shopping in the 21st century. We asked Judith Haase three questions about high-gloss surfaces.


Is “glossy” the new black?

We don’t follow trends. As a rule, we work with contrasts. Whereby for us the surface texture is inherent to the material. For example, when we employ reflective surfaces, we also use matt, rough surfaces right nearby. From haptically interesting surfaces to nearly hygienic surfaces without structure. These contrasts result in an interesting interplay with the surrounding space and the visitors to it.


Dealing with spaces also always means dealing with surfaces. What kinds of surfaces appeal to you?

Materials appeal to us. The chosen material determines the surface and colour. The starting point for material selection is the existing space and its lighting conditions, its openings to natural light. We use light-reflective surfaces or non-reflective, dull surfaces. Light, both natural and artificial, is a decisive element in our projects and when it comes to selecting materials.


To what extent do aesthetic trends resulting from digitality influence the designing of real, physical spaces or objects?

We are influenced by many new technologies that continually originate from digitisation and industrial development. We have a team that constantly investigates new technologies and materials. In our designs, we use material thicknesses, compositions and connections and, in the process, try to take the material to its limits. The details that we develop display the material itself directly without concealment. Our signature and aesthetic preferences are recognisable in the details of our designs.



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