Usu­al­ly, we do not tend to imagine for just how many dif­fer­ent dis­ci­p­lines some­thing that ini­tial­ly seems as ev­ery­day and trivial as ‘sur­faces' play an im­por­tant role, name­ly in art, in al­most all ar­eas of de­sign, in count­less tech­ni­cal fields, in the na­t­u­ral sci­ences of course, and not least in the hu­mani­ties, too. It there­fore seems quite plau­si­ble that the pheno­menon of the sur­face is an es­pe­cial­ly promis­ing ob­ject for trans­dis­pli­nary ap­proach­es to R&D. Just how fruit­ful a glance over at other fields can be is shown by a small but very exc­it­ing group show be­ing held in Ber­lin's Aedes gallery. En­ti­tled "Mem­branes, Sur­faces, Boun­daries. Cre­at­ing In­ter­s­tices", the at times slight­ly awk­ward ex­hi­bi­tion show sev­er­al, in part es­sen­tial­ly ex­per­i­men­tal pro­jects as well as others that are very ad­vanced - all on the sub­ject of sur­faces and re­late to the in­ter­s­tices of art, de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture, physics, elec­tron­ics and ma­te­rials re­search.

While Su­san­na Her­trich takes a con­cep­tu­al artis­tic ap­proach to ad­dress the top­ic and her works tend to in­vesti­gate the emo­tio­n­al side to sur­faces, Cle­mens Win­k­ler con­strues sur­face as a "lev­el in­ter­me­di­at­ing be­tween hu­mans and their sur­round­ings". In his case, this then take the con­crete shape of dif­fer­ent types of unu­su­al in­ter­faces that in­vite you to in­ter­act with them. And he suc­ceeds most im­pres­sive with his "Pow­er Pen". Us­ing a pen­cil you can lay graphite tracks on a sur­face and, when touched, a weak cur­rent flows through them which is it­self ren­dered au­di­ble by means of an amp at­tached to the pen­cil.

Un­like this se­duc­tive but more ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach, the "BlingCrete" by Heike Kluss­mann and Thorsten Kloost­er is al­most ready to go in­to pro­duc­tion. Vi­su­al­ized by means of count­less, large-size ma­te­rial spec­i­mens, it clear­ly forms the heart of the show. BlingCrete is a form of retrore­flec­tive con­crete that re­flects light rays falling it back in the di­rec­tion of their source - it is an op­ti­cal pheno­menon that is used, for ex­am­ple, for road mark­ings. Here, retrore­flec­tion aris­es by in­te­grat­ing mi­cro-spheres of glass in­to the sur­face of the con­crete. In a com­plex high-tech pro­duc­tion pro­cess that re­quired a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment ef­fort, the duo have come up with a sur­face that, de­pend­ing on the an­gle from which you see it and the am­bi­ent light, ap­pears matt at one mo­ment on­ly to shim­mer bright­ly the next, cre­at­ing a hap­tic ex­pe­ri­ence at the same time. Thanks to th­ese fas­ci­nat­ing prop­er­ties, BlingCrete can be used for a whole ar­ray of pos­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tions, be they artis­tic/aes­thet­ic or prac­ti­cal/use­ful. BlingCrete evolved as part of a re­search pro­ject at Kas­sel Uni­ver­si­ty and can quite right­ly be con­sid­ered a pro­to­type for the trans­dis­ci­pli­nary de­vel­op­ment of ma­te­rials, de­liv­er­ing what it promis­es.

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Add­ed-val­ue sur­faces
Mathias Remmele