top of page

RZLBD | FOUR VASES GLASS PROTOTYPES


These vases do not declare singular utilitarian purpose. Besides holding flowers, they are open to serve at least one more function. They extend invitations to engage one’s mind and body in interacting with them.

In a Duchampian way, one’s participation becomes necessary in exploring and expanding the posibilities — think of a little museum, a display case, a paperweight, a fish tank, or a milk bowl for a kitten!

_RZLBD

 

Designer: RZLBD


There is a famous story by Louis Kahn: if you ask the brick what it wants — “What do you want, brick?” — the brick replies — “I like an arch!” And even if you try to convince it that an arch is too expensive and suggest a beautiful steel or concrete lintel instead, the brick still insists — “I like an arch!” As a practicing architect, following the footsteps of the great maestro, I have been trying to conduct similar conversations with brick, wood, steel, stone — pretty much all major construction materials. Through these dialogues, I have tried to find a way to stay faithful to the nature of the material at hand while imposing a degree of design authority. Even with less rigid materials such as plaster or concrete, there is always a formwork which, to a high degree, secures the outcome. But very recently, working with gaffers and the inflating molten glass in a hot shop, prototyping a vase, has pushed me quite out of my comfort zone.


My brain operates in terms of milling, tooling, machining, and casting, often on a Cartesian framework. After all, I am a hardcore Modernist. Yet, white-hot gather spooled at one end of a blowpipe struggling with gravity didn’t go very well with my past learnings. Secondly, architecture is a very slow process; arguably, the making of it is more forgiving. Glass blowing, however, happens impromptu and on a much faster pace; there is no time to go back to a drafting table, make a revision, and issue a change order. In short, it is agile, it is acrobatic, it is hot, and it is glassy!


Very challenging, yes. But as a designer who is a groupie of Vignellis, who always emphasized, “If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” quitting was never an option. After a few failing attempts, glass taught me a lesson or two. Only then, I could manage to realize working prototypes, which, at first glance, may look quite different from each other. I would argue that despite unalike formal expressions, they all emerged, more or less, from the same design principles.


The Prototypes


What is a vase? What is the problem of a vase?


Any typical dictionary describes a vase as a decorative container, an ornament. But almost 2600 years ago, Lao Tzu answered this question more profoundly: “We work the clay in the shape of a vase, for it is precisely where there is nothing that the effectiveness of the vase resides. Thus, we think that we benefit from things that are tangible, but it is precisely where we do not perceive any thing that true effectiveness resides.” Years later, Heidegger reaffirmed: “The emptiness, the void, is what does the vessel’s holding. The empty space, this nothing of the vase, is what the vase is as the holding vessel.” In fact, this notion of emptiness has always been the core of my design practice. For me, the poetic and philosophical win over the decorative and ornamental.


As objects, the prototypes inevitably have forms. Yet, these forms are not derived from another exiting forms but instead are arrived at through a process inspired and informed by design as a discipline, not a trend. In other words, their formal expressions are only the byproducts of the very ideas behind them. They seek elegance but resist the temptation of becoming pretentious objects, begging for attention, seeking visibility, or, even worse, competing with flowers.


As containers, the prototypes complement a spatial setting, a mies-en-scene, for something else to be the protagonist. Yet, by their visual power, they also maintain a degree of autonomy and authority, so that they can hold their presence even without the flowers, which are temporary by nature. These vessels are conceived to be less noticeable when holding something and more visible when resting on their own.


As products, the prototypes are ambiguous. They do not declare singular utilitarian purpose. Besides holding flowers, they are open to serve at least one more function. They extend invitations to engage one’s mind and body in interacting with them. In a Duchampian way, one’s participation becomes necessary in exploring and

expanding the possibilities — for these prototypes, think of a little museum, a display case, a paperweight, a pencil holder, a fish tank, or a milk bowl for a kitten!


The Vase


In general, over time, we have assigned an exclusive role to the vases, mainly holding flowers. In return, vases have become discriminatory vessels by giving ways to certain types of flowers, often those with stems that could be arranged in certain ways. These prototypes ask you to explore other types and other arrangements. They hold you responsible to question the appropriateness of a vase and to search for equity in the infinite taxonomy of flowering plants. Why not a Tillandsia as a less common type or floating petals as a less common arrangements? What if a vase can rotate or pivot until it finds its balance in relation to its content, the water and the plant? Why not holding a plant other than vertically? How about flipping a vase upside down?


Perhaps, a vase should not settle to be an ornament, a mere decorative container. Perhaps, a vase is a vase if it goes beyond a passive beauty object. Perhaps, a vase triggers some questions and suggests more possibilities. Perhaps, a vase could trap a moment in time. Perhaps, a vase could also become a vessel for your mind, keeping your thoughts fresh and your dreams ever-growing.


These prototypes are just a few attempts to revisit and push an ancient object a bit further. It is very humbling to affiliate with the lineage, to participate in the collective effort, to share the obsession, and to search for timelessness, which is the ultimate aspect of an archetype! _ RZLBD


Comments


Recent Posts
bottom of page