Dezeen Magazine

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

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.

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