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Strange Beauty

Lauren Murrow | September 28, 2016 | Story Galleries and Performance National

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—or in the case of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s traveling exhibition, Beauty, 57 beholders spanning 27 countries, each with wildly different ideas of what constitutes extreme comeliness. So what do several dozen of the world’s greatest designers find beautiful? Madcap fashion statements, physics-defying architecture, heterodox furniture, and typefaces that make font nerds swoon. All will be represented at the San Jose Museum of Art beginning October 8, when the triennial makes its only stop on the West Coast. The 280-work show is a mind-melting celebration of science, craft, coding, and the malleability of silicon, whether that takes the form of a temperature-controlled, color-changing leather jacket or a stool shaped by magnetic force fields. If you still need convincing to make the trek to San Jose, consider it an act of self-preservation: Architect Neri Oxman’s 3-D printed synthetic organ systems may someday enable interplanetary survival. Through Feb. 19, 2017, 110 S. Market St. (near W. San Fernando St.), San Jose

Rewilding with Synthetic Biology
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, 2013
As part of a project called Designing for the Sixth Extinction, Ginsberg conceived man-made companion species to promote conservation: Bioengineered slugs on the forest floor detect and neutralize acid in soil; spiky red devices nearby disperse seeds; tree-hugging membranes treat the infection that causes sudden oak death; and a leaf-coating biofilm traps airborne pollutants.

Archives wallpaper
Studio Job for NLXL, 2014
Designers Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel raided their archive for existing drawings, icons, and other images to create these 9-meter-long wallpaper strips. From a distance, the patterns appear traditional; up close, they depict syringes, kitchen tools, gas masks, and more. Each of the seven designs is unique, printed without any repetition.

Guido Palau, 2011
Palau, the global creative director for Redken, is known for creating daring coifs for fashion glossies and runway shows inspired by history, music, art, and street style.

Lauren Bowker, 2014
A textile designer and chemist, Bowker was dubbed a “fashion-channeling witch” by Vogue. The jackets in her Air collection change colors according to their environment. This leather version is coated with wind-reactive ink.

Kris Sowersby for Klim Type Foundry, 2013
The New Zealand–based designer creates and sells typefaces through his independent typeface studio, Klim Type Foundry. The Domaine Display Italic typeface, pictured here, was inspired by the Latin genre of typefaces.

Souk Mirage rendering
Sou Fujimoto Architects, 2013
This water dock is part of the design for a commercial complex, also known as “Particles of Light,” in an anonymous Middle Eastern city. The master plan features a modular structural system of arches inspired by traditional bedouin tents.

Gravity Stool
Jólan Van der Wiel, 2014
A machine called the Gravity Tool shapes Van der Wiel’s ethereal furniture, positioning a container of polarized plastic between two opposing magnetic fields. The shape of the item that’s produced is determined by its gravitational pull.

Wearable sculpture
Ana Rajcevic, 2012
Based in London and Berlin, Rajcevic examines the intersection of fine arts, sculpture, and design. This piece, crafted from fiberglass, polyurethane, and rubber, was part of Animal: The Other Side of Evolution, a collection of synthetic tusks and masks.

Rendering of Amant gallery
SO-IL, 2015
The New York architecture studio SO-IL created this rendering of a forthcoming art space in Brooklyn. The design team sought to soften the concrete industrial building with a cluster of shells that diffuse natural light into the interior rooms.

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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