The architecture of Swedish forests inspires Front Design’s new furniture
After years of research into the wilderness of Swedish forests, the design duo presents a new collection developed with Moroso that replicates natural textures with furniture
Living in Sweden, Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren, of design studio Front, have an innate connection to the wilder side of nature. ‘Nature is always around the corner wherever you are in this country,’ the designers observe. ‘We have dramatic dierences between the seasons: summer is completely light and winter is dark, and that makes you conscious of how nature aects you in a very direct way.’
Nature has been a recurring theme for Front, whose pieces often feature sculptural renditions of animals, depictions of natural phenomena and organic forms. But over the past four years, the pair have gone deeper, conducting a scientific exploration of the shapes, structures and textures found in the wild. Building an international network of scientists and researchers, and taking themselves to Swedish forests to photograph and scan the environment, Lagerkvist and Lindgren gained an understanding of the architecture of the forest and its living systems, which has, in turn, informed their most ambitious project to date.
Titled Design by Nature, the project includes furniture, objects and textiles directly informed by the natural phenomena the pair researched. To bring their ideas to life, they found an ideal production partner in Patrizia Moroso, a long-time collaborator and friend. Front’s inaugural series for Moroso, developed in 2008 and titled Moment, included furniture that created optical illusions. It’s a trick they want to repeat. ‘We want to interest the viewer on many different levels, and the illusion triggers the feeling of curiosity, of trying to understand what something really is and what it is made from,’ says Lagerkvist.
With Design by Nature, they take this concept to the next level. The first pieces form a series they call Nature Furniture, functioning like traditionally upholstered seating but looking like rock formations covered in patches of moss. The pair worked with Moroso to recreate natural surfaces on textiles using 3D scanning and photography. Patrizia Moroso then enlisted textile experts such as Kvadrat Febrik and Limonta to develop digitally printed fabrics, as well as jacquards and gobelins that mimic the images captured by Front.
Postcard-beautiful nature is not the most fascinating. We love the cold, rainy, raw and ugly nature
The concept was inspired by studies that demonstrate how spending time in nature has positive effects on general wellbeing, memory and creativity. ‘This idea made us wonder whether it could be possible to bring fragments of wilderness, of the natural world, directly into domestic settings. We wanted to create the feeling that someone had lifted a whole glade from a forest with a gigantic shovel and moved it to a home. The pieces try to recreate the feeling of sitting out in a forest on the mossy ground, on a cliff by a lake, or of sinking into a snowdrift,’ the designers say.
The second part of the collection is focused on animals’ own creations. Lagerkvist and Lindgren spent several summer months over the past four years exploring bears’ burrows, tree trunks cut by beavers, textures created by woodpeckers and insects, tunnels dug by rabbits and the nests of wasps and mole crickets. They scanned wolves’ and owls’ tracks on the snow, looked at single-cell amoebas, and fossilised faeces from around 200 million years ago. The designers also looked at a forest’s timeline, observing the chronology of animals taking over its spaces after a fire.
Their images, scans and illustrations show a very raw and clinical interpretation of the forest, not an idealised version. ‘Postcard-beautiful nature is not the most fascinating. We love the cold, rainy, raw and ugly nature,’ they observe. The objects that they studied were then domesticated – 3D printed and reproduced in porcelain, wood and recycled glass, and rescaled to work as side tables, vases and lighting objects.
The designers’ point of view on the natural world was a denite pull for Patrizia Moroso, who became an integral part of the creative process. ‘I was familiar with this topic of nature as a creator of shapes and structures,’ says Moroso. ‘It’s not by chance that this project is called Design by Nature. It’s not an old-style, romantic concept, it’s a new scientific and technological approach, as it reproduces the organicity of a natural object with contemporary tools. Front’s work as designers is to research and nd interesting phenomena, to leave them untouched, to analyse them and to faithfully reproduce them – I think this is genius.’
The research element of the project has perhaps been the most energising. ‘It’s been inspiring to see how designers can become connectors,’ observes Lagerkvist. The pieces currently in the works, from the seating to the objects designed by animals and repurposed by Front, will be presented in an immersive installation in 2021. Lagerkvist and Lindgren suest that a process of research and exploration will continue to inform their work. ‘We have always loved to create projects that take a strand of research that then starts to unravel and grow in unexpected ways,’ they say.
Patrizia Moroso sums up the collection as a combination of simple forms and complex textures and surfaces that together can recreate the complexity of nature in the eye of the viewer. ‘It’s an interplay between design and nature that is very important in these times,’ she says. ‘We have so much to learn from nature.’ §