Nº 274

Rock Strata

Text: Franziska Porsch

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin

Although not yet scientifically verified, the term anthropocene has been circulating for some time now. What this means is that man has altered the surface of the earth to such an extent that he is now the key influential factor on our planet. 

The following projects show how components of the earth’s surface and its natural and man-made layers can be used to form a design perspective.


Excavation: Evicted



As a reaction to forced eviction from his studio in the London district of Hackney, the British designer Paul Cocksedge proceeded to drill boreholes there. He combined the drilling cores removed from the floor with glass panels to form five different items of furniture, which were presented for the first time at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair. They not only represent a material tribute to the past twelve years in which the building was home to his studio, but are also an archaeological document of the site’s history: among others, a layer of Victorian bricks emerged. Furthermore, this work indicates the dwindling spaces available to creatives in major cities around the world as they are being displaced by new construction projects and rising rents.





Within the framework of her project “Eine ästhetische Gesteinsansprache” [An Aesthetic Analysis of Rock], with which she completed her degree in product design and media art at the HfG Karlsruhe in 2017, Pia Matthes devoted herself to the characteristics of rock. She drew inspiration from petrology, an area of geoscience, and its research methods, in particular microscopy. Instead of placing the thin section of a rock under a microscope for the purpose of analysis, she used it for projection. One result of her project culminated in the Petroskop, which comprises a lamp, a lens, various thin sections, and an optional polarisation filter. Held by magnets, the thin section can be moved between the lamp and the lens enabling a selection of various details of the rock. The projection not only provides an insight into the world of petrology, it also makes it possible to aesthetically experience the composition of rocks.


Waste Based Collection




The discovery that construction waste accounts for the greatest volume of refuse in the Netherlands inspired Tom van Soest to ask himself within the framework of his dissertation at the Design Academy Eindhoven what this waste could be used for. The ensuing idea to grind construction waste and use it to manufacture new building materials led to the establishment of Stone Cycling in 2013 along with Ward Massa. Apart from their wide range of Waste Based Bricks, they also explore other possibilities for using the material. In collaboration with the Amsterdam-based Ultra Studio and various Dutch manufacturers, the Waste Based Collection has evolved to include a table, a stool, and three lamps, and was presented at the Dutch Design Week for the first time in 2016. They will be present again this year with the aim of familiarising visitors with the possibility of using waste to create attractive products for their homes.


Soil Fictions




In late 2016, the “Soil Fictions” exhibition presented the results of the Soil Lab, the first residence programme in a series aimed at artists and scientists alike, pursuing the goal of developing new narratives linked to our planet. We discussed the project with the members of the Soil Lab, formed by designer Yesenia Thibault-Picazo, artist Anaïs Tondeur and scientists Marine Legrand, Germain Meulemans, and Alan Vergnes, who are now part of the ensuing newly-established Chaoïde collective.


Biomining or the Earth Harvesters from Yesenia Thibault-Picazo on Vimeo.


Why do you think it is important to discuss soil as a topic?


Soil is often still seen as an inert and static medium, an inexhaustible resource and infinitely manipulable material, whereas in reality, it is a moving milieu that has been transformed and often weakened by recent human activity. More than providing a living environment for thousands of species, soils support a rich diversity of landscapes and genetic reserves. As well as being rich in cultural and social portents, they also host human activities, conserve archaeological remains and traces of past climates and biology. Yet, in France alone, 1,300 hectares of soil are sealed with concrete every week. More and more people are nowadays alarmed by the destruction of the Amazon forest, but very few are aware of what is happening with soil just around the corner. We think it is important to investigate ways to revive our relationship with soil and re-establish a fruitful dialogue with it.


Petrichor (extract) from Anais Tondeur on Vimeo.


Why do you think it makes sense to include various disciplines in this regard?


To tackle the complex and sensitive system that soil is, we believe we need to intertwine disciplines. Each one of them is rich of methods, perspectives, and a particular language that can feed this narrative we were building together. We artists and designers, bring a sensitive and aesthetic vision, intuitive imagination, and the storytelling through making and visual tools to the team. The scientists bring their methods, language, and knowledge. The opportunity of such collaboration was about being free to imagine and act beyond the restraints of scientific investigation protocols and scientific “facts”. We all aimed at going beyond our discipline’s boundaries and especially breaking down the common relationship between artists and scientists, in which one tends to use the other as consultant or executor.



What do you think you can contribute to the discussion about soil?


Considering soil in its various aspects – as a resource, as an interface between the living and the non-living, as an archive, etc. – our collective work enables to embrace the multifaceted realities soil carries, which, as each of us can testify, are often quite difficult for scientists or artists to express on their own. We believe this means also to explore common ways of living or being with soil beyond “scientific” realities, because we need new narrative forms in order to set out new urban existences. Exploring this “in-between space” has an interesting potential to engage in a discussion with the public. This goes further than just delivering a message or resolving a problem. It is more about inviting people to bring in their own questions, both as individuals and as members of the society.


Nº 283
The Power of Design

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