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Formafantasma: Material, Process, Narrative

A design studio committed to sustainability from ethical practices

Image Credit: Formafantasma, № – ExCinere, Tiles formats and colors

Formafantasma, the innovative design studio led by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, has garnered worldwide recognition for their unique approach to materials, processes, and narratives. With a deep-rooted commitment to sustainability and a penchant for storytelling, Formafantasma pushes the boundaries of traditional design practices. In this article, we consider their extraordinary exploration of materials, their meticulous attention to processes, and their compelling narratives that bring their designs to life. Through their inventive and thought-provoking work, Formafantasma continues to inspire and challenge the design world.

Formafantasma's approach to materials is characterized by a deep reverence for their inherent qualities and narratives. They engage in extensive research, investigating both traditional and unconventional materials, seeking to understand their cultural, historical, and ecological significance. By sourcing materials locally and repurposing waste or overlooked resources, they prioritize sustainability and circular design principles. Through their meticulous material explorations, Formafantasma invites us to reconsider our relationship with the materials that surround us and appreciate their beauty and potential.

Image Credit: Formafantasma, № – Charcoal, view of the collection

Formafantasma embraces a multidisciplinary approach, combining traditional craftsmanship with technological advancements. Their design process is marked by experimentation, curiosity, and a dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Whether it's through intricate handcrafted details or the integration of cutting-edge techniques such as 3D printing and computational modeling, they bridge the gap between tradition and innovation. This combination of old and new processes results in designs that are visually compelling, technically precise, and conceptually rich.

Narratives play a crucial role in Formafantasma's design practice, as they weave stories and cultural references into their creations. They draw inspiration from historical contexts, socio-political issues, and environmental concerns, using design as a means of storytelling and social commentary. By infusing their designs with narratives, Formafantasma adds layers of meaning and provokes critical reflection. Their objects become more than just functional pieces; they become vessels for storytelling and vehicles for raising awareness about pressing societal challenges.

Formafantasma's commitment to sustainability goes beyond material choices. They carefully consider the entire lifecycle of their designs, from sourcing to manufacturing and end-of-life considerations. By prioritizing sustainable practices and ethical production, they aim to minimize environmental impact and create objects with longevity. Their designs encourage us to reconsider our relationship with consumerism and embrace more conscious choices.

Image Credit: Formafantasma, still from Cambio, Visual Essay (2020)

At the Serpentine Gallery in 2020, the design duo presented Cambio, an exhibition that resonates with simplicity while delving into the intricate realities of design and its impact on sustainability. The exhibition embarked on an exploration of wood as both material and metaphor, unearthing layers of meaning that extend far beyond the surface. Cambio, derived from the Latin term "cambium," not only signifies change but is deeply rooted in botanical significance. In trees, cambium is the membrane responsible for annual cell production, forming growth rings and allowing sap to flow. This exhibition draws inspiration from this biological process, encapsulating the essence of the tree's growth and its positive impact on the environment. Formafantasma's approach is far from superficial, aiming to propel design towards a paradigm of sustainability, unlike the unchecked growth that has dominated design since the industrial revolution.

Formafantasma's approach to materials, processes, and narratives exemplifies their transformative vision for design. Their exploration of materials expands our understanding of their potential, pushing the boundaries of what we consider as traditional design mediums. Their dedication to innovative processes and craftsmanship challenges the status quo, blurring the lines between old and new techniques. Finally, their narratives provoke meaningful discussions and inspire us to reconsider the role of design in shaping our world. Formafantasma's work continues to captivate and challenge, leaving an indelible mark on the design landscape.