Featuring Ralph Capper.
We live in unprecedented times. As we gently throttle our planet to death with a tactical mix of pollution, destruction of ecosystems and plain ignorance, a number of free thinkers among us argue that just as our time on Earth is limited; our future on Mars is an inevitability. Elon Musk leads the charge to the Red Planet with space exploration company Space X promising to send a crewed mission to Mars by 2024 to build the first Mars base. Two hundred thousand people have already applied to permanently live there. And last month’s Shanghai Urban Space Art Season 2017 saw pioneering green city Architect Stefan Boeri consider how our colonisation of Mars could actually look. He used the event to unveil an enlarged vision of his Milanese vertical forest project, as domed Martian cities for human settlers.
We’ve all seen enough sci-fi movies to know how hollywood thinks life on Mars will look. But how would its interiors shape up? In a recent chat with my dad and mentor Ralph Capper, we got onto the subject of ficticious interiors on Mars. I set him a challenge to choose some pieces of furniture – past or present – to take with him to the red planet.
Before I get to his choices, let’s consider the project and the brief.
Atmospheric conditions for Mars settlers means space will come at a premium. Living quarters will be compact, so most everyday furniture will be flexible and intelligent. New materials will be discovered, which combined with advancements in 3D printing and production will be catalysts to a new era of design. Designers and makers will respond to this new chapter, inventively dealing with the constraints and opportunities of the harsh external planetary conditions.
But whilst our first reaction may be to look for futuristic design furniture to fit this brief, let us consider how much of a factor human instinct may prove to be. Would we be satisfied purely by modern, functional and technology-driven interiors? What about human desire for organic forms, earthly memories and biophilia? I hand you over to Ralph and his Mars furniture wishlist:
FontanaArte Uovo by Michele de Lucchi
The egg: a natural form and timeless symbol of perfection in which symmetry and asymmetry co-exist. Uovo is the subject of a sketch recovered in 1992 in the historic archives of FontanaArte, in which the ‘shell’ of the lamp contains a light source: an iconic idea that still works today. As in nature, the body of the lamp is the embodiment of absolute lightness, an elegant form in white satin blown glass that gives off a warm natural light, a veritable light sculpture.
The lamp casts a warm and enveloping light that sets off its sober lines and timeless design. Uovo occupies its space with its fascination and modern presence. A constant reminder of life and future.
Charles & Ray Eames 670 chair & Ottoman.
Based on design, home comfort, family, marriage of materials, leather, rosewood, metal and cloth with ‘respect to design a new English Club chair’ and as soft as a first baseman’s mitt: A special cocoon from the strains of modern living.
Shown in a collage by Ray & Charles Eames in the interiors of their private homes for over 50 years; the figure of a black wooden bird, an especially prized artefact that was treasured by this talented couple. A reminder of dawn. The first bird to wake; the blackbird.
I have to admit I expected Saarinen, Starck or Hadid to feature in Ralph’s shortlist. But the above actually seems to make more sense. In a hostile planet filled with strange natural light and bleak landscapes, where new buildings and interiors are shaped by unfamiliar mouldable composites, our sentimental feelings towards nature, wood, leather, wicker and stone will catapult these rare treasures back centerstage, to become the most prized possessions in any human interior.
What would you take with you?
Whilst we will adapt to new surroundings, our needs and yearning for tactile pleasures and natural materials will be impossible to suppress. This instinct, among many others, will forever ground us to Earth. Maybe we should consider looking after it a little better.
Thank you Mr Capper senior. The student continues to learn.