"Software is now an integral part of a physical
object" – Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

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German designer Clemens Weisshaar argues that cutting edge software from race car engineering and hypersonic aircraft will underpin design in the future in this movie filmed at Dezeen Live during 100% Design.

In the movie, Clemens Weisshaar, one half of design duo Kram/Weisshaar, introduces the computer-controlled X-51 hypersonic test missile, which is designed to fly at several times the speed of sound.

"There are physical objects out there, including every Airbus aircraft, that wouldn't fly anymore if you switched off the computer systems," he says. "Software becomes an integral part of a physical object [...] and that’s not even the future, it’s now."

Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

Above: the X-51 hypersonic test missile

He then talks about an Audi race car created by engineers with whom he recently collaborated on a high-tech, ultra-lightweight chair.

"Those guys, they think completely differently – they really think of energy as investing energy in an object to make it very light, but then you need the return on the investment by saving energy afterwards," he says. "Only if you break even and actually save energy after 100,000 kilometres on the road, only then is it worthwhile doing it. Otherwise, it’s a waste."

Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

Above: an Audi race car

Weisshaar also criticises as "naïve" the idea that making furniture from wood is always the most sustainable option, and adds: "Design students these days tend to think that everything they can make with a cordless drill is amazing. That’s also naïve.

"The age of mass production hasn't stopped – we’re more and more people on this planet, so we can’t customise products for everybody."

Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

Above: Istanbul

Showing a slide of the Istanbul skyline, he comments on the Multithread furniture he showed at the Adhocracy exhibition during Istanbul Design Biennial, which has metal legs produced in a new 3D printing process.

"Now there’s technologies where you can actually melt on metals straight away and print metal objects straight away. That’s what we’re using – it’s called selective laser melting," he says, adding that 3D printing with plastic has largely produced trivial objects like ashtrays and egg cups. "We don't do the much-hyped 3D printing of plastics [...] now there’s technologies where you can actually print usable objects."

Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

Above: diagram of a lioness' muscles and skeleton

He then shows an image of the muscular and skeletal structures of a lioness, explaining: "There’s so much chemistry, engineering, bio-engineering going on that nobody really understands it, not even doctors or biologists [...] the big challenge of the 21st century is to control entire systems, complex systems, and understand all of it."

Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

Above: software analysing forces acting on furniture

The final slide depicts a computer program analysing the forces acting on a piece of furniture, which Weisshaar used to prototype pieces such as the chair for Audi.

"We take engineering code that lets us calculate the forces acting within an object, and we're bringing that into design software we’re writing," he explains. "We want to use it to see things that the eye can’t see [...] in many cases you make assumptions, you think there’s a lot of strain on the joint there, but it’s not, it’s somewhere else.

"We’re using [this technology] for tables and chairs now because we think that tables and chairs really deserve this kind of attention," he adds.

Weisshaar's other work with designer and computer scientist Reed Kram includes computer-designed concrete stools and pedestals and eight robotic arms installed in Trafalgar Square.

Dezeen Live was a series of talks between Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs and a selection of designers and critics that took place at design exhibition 100% Design during London Design Festival this September.

Each of the four one-hour shows included three interviews as well as music from Dezeen Music Project. We've been posting all the movies over the past few days and you can watch all the movies we've featured so far here.

The music featured in the movie is a track from Business Class Refugees by Indian record label EarthSyncListen to more songs by EarthSync on Dezeen Music Project.

See all our stories about Benjamin Hubert »
See all our stories about Dezeen Live »
See all our stories about London Design Festival 2012 »

  • beatrice

    “If you switch off the computer the plane will just fall out of the sky”.

    Or not. Grandiose but facile commentary from someone who makes furniture in overly complex ways. A smokescreen or Ross Lovegrove part 2? Please leave the aeronautics to those who can.

    • taptap

      I agree, their furniture range is somewhat over-engineered. Highlighting stress points on a table or shelf for home use is almost ridiculous.

      • beatrice

        It’s not over-engineered. It’s just decorated. This guy’s talk is the epitome of the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” without adding anything to the world. I wish they had a single product of their own that showed any genuine absorption in the fields they claim to appreciate, but there is none. All is decoration. All is surface. Pffft.

  • http://www.intellicore.co.uk/ Jerry

    Software and computers save us so much time. That’s why we’ve been able to advance in new technologies. Look how long it used to take cartoon creators to make just one cartoon; now there’s software that can fill in the blanks and save so much time and money.

  • Steven

    Ummm. This may sound harsh, but it’s only because I love you guys (seriously, I can’t think of a single day I haven’t stopped by Dezeen for a well-curated design distraction). Just when I thought you guys were about to get all psfk (that’s psfk.com) on me and drop some thought provoking interviews…

    This was the first interview in the series that I watched. As a designer-entrepreneur in a space that epitomizes the “Internet of things” and the hardware-software intersection, the title had me hooked. I think the interviewee had no clue of the subject matter and even spoke poorly about each diversion topic. Utter ridiculousness!

    What a waste of precious time. I hope that you continue this series. In the future, I’m sure both the interviewees and interviewers will be up to task.

    I forgive you, Dezeen.

  • pizzaface

    Steven, you are ill-informed and misguided. Have you had a look at the Kram/Wiesshaar portfolio? This practice is very informed and aware of the subject matter.

    • beatrice

      I know their work very well. I agree 100% with Steven’s comment. Did you watch the video?

      However I agree with your comment “This practice is very informed and aware of the subject matter.” They are aware of airplanes, software analysis, animal anatomy etc but they have no understanding of these things whatsoever. This is made very clear in the video, in which generalised commentary is made without making any sense. Surface commentary at best, arrogant falsehoods at worst but mostly factually incorrect in general.

      0/10