One approach to creating a novel design application is to intentionally reinterpret a material's intended function. For example, solder is a soft metal alloy typically used to join wires and electrical components together. However, in the case of a recent work by Japanese designer Kouichi Okamoto, solder is used as a primary surfacing material rather than a connective substance.
To make his "Form of Light Force Transmission" installation, Okamoto heated solder in a container and dripped the molten material slowly and methodically on a wood panel. Over time, the collection of solder drips began to coalesce, resulting in a dappled, blurred mirror surface. After the solder cooled, Okamoto peeled the metal skin off the substrate and reattached it to vertical wall panels. In a final twist, the designer used the solder planes to conduct electricity for light by clipping the installation's light fixtures and electrical cables to the conductive metal.
Although it required a long and painstaking process to produce, Okamoto's installation imparts a rich and unexpected quality that results from its surprising misuse of a common material.
Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.