Decoding Design

At Design Miami: beautiful design that reflects math principles

Posting in Architecture

At Design Miami, an annual exhibition of chic objects, the work of Haresh Lalvani--a professor who creates eye-catching pieces based on mathematical concepts--stands out.

The seventh edition of Design Miami, an annual show of chic international furniture, lighting, and other objects, kicked off on November 30. And among the many lovely items on view, one piece in particular is gaining attention for its relationship to mathematics and science: an elegant spherical sculpture made of laser-cut bent steel that represents some 30-plus years of research on the mathematical relationships of forms.

Math may seem like an odd context for high design to casual observers of either discipline, but to Haresh Lalvani, a professor at the Pratt Institute who has a Ph.D in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, the two are definitely related. At Design Miami, his "Hyper Surface Constellation II"--the sculpture mentioned and pictured above-- was named as one of ten standout pieces chosen by a group of design curators and experts who were asked by the show's organizers to name the most notable designs on view this year.

Lalvani has been researching a "shape code" for buildings and other forms, based on frequently occuring mathematical relationships of curves, lines, and angles in both historical, global architecture and design as well as in nature. The concept behind his work is to map the "genome" of architecture, basically, by identifying consistent principles found within structures, be they an icy hail stone, golf balls, or geodesic domes. Then, when these are identified, it might be easier and more efficient to create not only buildings, but sculptures or other, more practical objects because designers will better understand what shapes work best together and why, rather than trying to fabricate products or edifices based on aesthetics only.

A slide from Haresh Lalvani's TEDx Brooklyn presentation illustrating his map of the spherical form's "genome"

Lalvani's theories aside, the metal orb on view at Design Miami is sure to keep turning heads with its delicate, lattice-like cut-outs. Aric Chen, creative director and curator of Beijing Design Week, said in a statement that he chose Lalvani's work as his top pick of what to see at this year's Design Miami because Lalvani's pieces "can't be anything but compelling, lying as they do at the intersection of design and science, form and mathematics."

Worth noting: a sculpture with such beauty and brains doesn't come cheap. On the e-commerce site for Moss, the hip design retailer that is exhibiting Lalvani's work at Design Miami, a similar piece from the Hyper Surface Constellation series costs $19,000.

Images: Design Miami, YouTube still

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure