Arthur Koutoulas on Touch

Arthur Koutoulas | Interior Design Consultant



Each and every material has its own unique finish, inherent colour and texture. In commercial interiors your selection of materials is driven by the concept/scheme and whether it is fit for purpose. The material is the physical link to the environment and is the tangible link to telling a story. The material gives the environment depth, texture and layers. The material is the physical manifestation of the vision. It allows the user to touch!

I was thinking about how a chef uses ingredients to cook and a designer uses materials to build. The material gives you something to touch, it is a grounding. A connector. A connector to the branded environment. To the chef. To the star! etc It is the datum line? I mean you are born with calibrators in your DNA that tell you what the scale of a material is, eg the scale of beautiful timber grains, or the scale of breathtaking veining on a slab of stone. Or the scale of a weave in the fabric. Or the scale of a loop weave in a carpet. etc. Materials allow you to connect with them through touch and scale.

With objects and interiors you touch and feel with your eyes long before you actually physically touch something. The material becomes an extension of you and your body. It helps to create the scene, to create an atmosphere. To communicate a desired effect and or message, either through branding and or experience. Jewellers know about this… They have explored the tactile qualities of precious materials on the body for centuries, and I think in interior design there isn’t a whole lot written about the tactile qualities of materials? Nevertheless the interaction your body has when it touches a material/form and becomes one with it is something special and sensual. Furniture can be compared to jewellery in that you might wear a piece of jewellery but you sit on a chair. In both disciplines there is a commonality, a connection to the body and to the human scale.

Environments/spaces/interiors especially in hospitality design or the design of people/social spaces – cafes and restaurants. Touch is usually a very sensual experience with materials. In hospitality environments materials need to be heavy-duty and need to take wear and tear. Heavy-duty materials are terrible to touch. Cold, shiny, metallic. etc. Although some materials are soft to touch and have excellent inherent properties in that they are durable, attractive and tactile at the same time. e.g. Leather and wood. etc.

I have recently been exploring the tactile qualities of (sponge) foam within furniture and interiors. We have designed an event for DENFAIR in Melbourne and we have been experimenting with foam to design an immersive and engaging speaker space that explores the boundaries between furniture and soft architecture. The idea was to create a soft sculptural installation that’s tactile, engaging and to offer an immersive experience to the audience. The emphasis was to create an intimate environment that encourages the audience to touch the foam material and further encourage discussion and dialogue.

The tactile and acoustic qualities of the foam material was perfect for this environmental branding application and meant that in this case we could celebrate and showcase the foam instead of concealing it. The design explores soft architecture and challenges the boundaries between furniture and architecture. The seat that is a wall… The wall that is seat… At some point the furniture can become part of the architecture. At some point the furniture can become part of the structure. At some point the furniture transcends the scale of architecture and becomes sculpture. Given the inherent characteristics of the foam material, the installation aims to inspire and inform its audience through touch to explore and inspire with its qualities further, and showcases the possibilities of the foam material.

Within my practice the inherent tactile qualities of a material are really important as we explore the use of many different types of materials in combination, either for furniture or interiors. From concrete, timber and metals, plastics, carbon fibre, resin and foam. etc Although we do try and keep our material selection to a minimum, partly because I am very fussy and want to get things right, and also from a sustainability point of view we try to keep our documentation as thin as possible. We explore the idea of scale and how objects and materials can inform an environment, and eventually developed our philosophy of creating human centred conditions from objects, texture and scale.

This is an excerpt from Ligature Journal Issue Six. Grab your own copy!

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