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Live at Design Miami: Altreforme

Though we've covered an impressive variety of products over the past couple of weeks here at Design Miami, I've noticed that, generally speaking, the majority have been characterized by their khaki palettes. From Tom Dixon's Flame, to Julia Krantz's Stack-Laminate Plywood Furniture, to Berlin and Christiansen's Grid Chair, to Gonçalo Mabunda’s Weapons Chair, we've seen a plethora of pieces in tones of amber, rust, and chestnut, but silver? Not so much... (with the exception, of course, of Terence Main's White Bronze Bench).

Liquirizia Multi-Unit Bench. Designed by Aziz Sariyer. Manufactured by Altreforme. Modeled with Julie MacKay.

The work produced by Valentina Fontana's Altreforme, then, is a nice departure from all these earth tones, as well as an appealing choice with which to conclude our look at Design Miami. It also speaks to my inner Bauhausian, given that all of Altreforme's automotive-inspired sculptures are created from that most sensible and utilitarian of manufacturing materials, aluminum.

Long valued among car makers for its light weight and corrosion-resistant properties, aluminum is also incredibly versatile: it can be incorporated almost anywhere in the car, from the power unit, to the suspension system and body, to interior components such as the seat and dashboard. Add to that the metal's innate recyclability and energy-efficient production quotient, and an increased use of aluminum seems to be a no brainer. So if it works for auto manufacturing, why not for design? That's exactly the question posed by Fontana and embodied in Altreforme, the new brand debuting in Design Miami as creators of "limited edition aluminium design sculptures inspired by the automotive industry." This seems sort of a timely topic—other uses for the traditional components of auto manufacturing, that is—given the ostensibly pending demise of our Big Three. But, alas, we're dealing with European influence here, it would seem (notice the British spelling of Aluminium). A collaboration between Fontana and the "main automotive companies," (Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Renault, VW), inspired Altreforme's project of re-appropriating the "extremely light and shining aluminium sheets," thus "giving life to big monolithic sculptures in highly collectable limited editions."

The resultant pieces are shining examples of re-tooling technology and "industrial materials" into art. One look at Altreforme's series and auto-aficionados will be possessed of a certain nostalgic deja vu. One can certainly sense the resemblance of such pieces as the Liquirizia Multi-Unit Bench (by Turkey's Aziz Sariyer) to the sinuously sculpted contours of a classic like the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, as well as to more contemporary coupes, as, for instance, Lamborghini's nocturnally-inspired Murciélago. A modularly-expandable unit, or endlessly-expansive, "depending upon your greediness," Liquirizia's enticing curves can be made to extend indefinitely, wending its darkly serpentine way across the room or the landscapes of Europe, just like Germany's famed Autobahn. Other pieces by Sariyer include mariù, a "stately-sized and surprisingly-shaped" console table, and Cioccolata, a bookcase that looks as if it were re-claimed and re-shaped from the hood of, say, Bond's famed Aston Martin DBS V12, driven to destruction (fittingly, into the depths of Italy's Lake Garda) during production of Quantum of Solace. And last but not least, there's Fontana's own Monza, a wall sculpture-come-mirror inspired by the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, beloved locus of Italian motor sports. So if you've a soft spot for the archetypes of European racing, or even just an appreciation for clever re-appropriation of industrial materials, you'll relish the debut of Altreforme's new concept in art/design.

Posted December 7th, 2008 by Joseph Starr


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