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Icon 181 – Roll and Rise

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Icon is a monthly magazine focusing on the best, most inspiring buildings, interiors, furnishings and fittings. It also celebrates the design process and the talented designers behind the most innovative work. It can be enjoyed equally by architecture and design professionals, and the design-literate public.


Icon 181 – Roll and Rise

Icon 181 – Roll and Rise: Wooden rollercoasters ride again; Brut, the melancholic design collective, Design Indaba 2018; and much more.

Objects often seem to be at our behest. We buy them, own them, use them, expend them, pollute with them, throw them away and destroy them. We collect their broken fragments, preserve them, put them in museums and look at them in glass cabinets. We build them, walk inside them and live in them. We even consume them and then discard them. And – I almost forgot to mention – we design them.

But what about what they do to us? As the theorist Igor Kopytoff wrote in his paper The Cultural Biography of Things, objects are capable of their own lives, transcending the functional roles or transactional values we impose on them. Good design takes into account the social value of ‘stuff.’ It exists as more than its materiality. As this issue shows, design can shape our mood and manipulate history.

Take Sound of Time, an hour-glass shaped side table made of steel by Belgian collective Brut, which has been deliberately left to rust: a gradual, natural process that is beyond its makers’ control. It’s rough, brown patina disrupts our fascination with shiny newness and instead invokes a melancholy mood.

The high velocity architecture of contemporary Qatar generates meanings beyond those intended by its instigators. Designed as part of an attempt to attribute the burgeoning nation with a cultural identity, it tacitly speaks of a nation that is paving over its past, erasing one identity and forging another.

The recent revival of wooden roller coaster in the UK combines the nostalgia for a lost era with an organic material that makes us feel closer to the real in an increasingly intangible world. It harks back to the material thrill of 1930s America, when the skyscraper and consumer technology were altering cities and lives forever.

Designers may be responsible for shaping the material world. But objects’ capacity to speak for themselves should not be underestimated.

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