Alvin Huang is sitting in Silhouette’s design studio having his eyes tested; debating form-finding equilibrium and the allowable tolerances of titanium with Silhouette’s head of design Roland Keplinger; and making parallels with his favourite examples of mid-century modernist buildings back in Los Angeles in a way that only a serious-minded architect and designer can.
Travelling from his home in California to the Silhouette HQ on the edge of Linz, Austria, via London, Huang has come to observe the intricate spectacles manufacturing process close-up, and to be fitted for a bespoke pair of sylphlike, rimless ‘Titan Minimal Art’ frames, customising them thanks to the brand’s extensive programme of options.
Having garnered significant experience working for the likes of Amanda Levete Architects, Future Systems and Zaha Hadid, Huang founded his own practice, Synthesis, in 2011. Current projects include a huge shopping centre in Bangkok, a 2,000-seat performance hall in China and a rapidly deployable solar-powered charging station for a new, alternative-fuel Volvo.
‘I am really interested in form and its relationship with performance,’ says Huang. ‘So it’s completely fascinating to see how glasses like this are constructed, how Silhouette uses both handcraft and state-of-the-art robotic fabrication to make something that is highly digital and engineered, but also very definitely bespoke.’
That bespoke process starts with a mathematical map of Huang’s face and some intense discussions about geometry and how it relates to the way the glasses sit on the eyes. There are preliminary pencil sketches, some detailed 3-D CAD imagery generated on the computer and an inspirational factory tour.
Making the transition to the world-famous rimless aesthetic of Silhouette proved a revelation.’ Before today, Huang would wear what he calls ‘frame-heavy’ eyewear, ‘where the frame defines the form and the profile of the design.
You are always very aware that you have glasses on with that type of frame. ‘But this is an entirely different experience. The Silhouette glasses weigh almost nothing and have a very light footprint on your face. It’s like my glasses have all but disappeared.’ Huang’s newly fashioned interface between the human experience and the wider world are carefully cleaned with a soft cloth and put in a case, ready for their trip back to the modernist cityscape of LA.