In the photobooth with ...
In the Photo Booth with ... Heike Klussmann and Thorsten Klooster Author: Rob Wilson
It was a tight squeeze in our photo booth this issue: the artist Heike Klussman, the architect Thorsten Klooster, and a couple of pieces of BlingCrete1 - the multi-functional, light-reflecting concrete that they’ve developed, patented, and that is coming soon to a building near you …
Please describe BlingCrete.
Heike Klussmann: It’s a newly developed material that combines the heavy surface of concrete with light-reflecting qualities, created by embedding little spheres of glass into the concrete to about 50 per cent depth. You immediately get a unique prismatic effect, with each sphere acting as a retroreflector — meaning light is reflected away from its source at an equal and opposite angle.
What’s the background of the product’s development?
Thorsten Klooster: It came out of a project Heike did for a subway station in Düsseldorf. The idea there was to use light-reflecting material but it turned out that nothing on the market complied with fire regulations, so something new needed to be developed.
Heike’s an artist, and she already used retro-reflective materials in her work, whilst I’m an architect, more on the technical and scientific side, and have written a book on smart surfaces. So we combined our two specific types of knowledge and experience in making BlingCrete.
And the name?
HK: … of course comes from the hip-hop “bling”: shiny stuff, jewelry.
So how can BlingCrete be used? What are its applications?
HK: There are so many functional applications: for reflective road markings, industrial hazard signs, platform edges, tunnels … and in architecture, it can be used on façades, in interior design, as a way-finding system — or for small, special situations where a message or graphic needs to be seen but only at a certain point where the information is required. It can also function as a tactile system for blind people.
TK: What’s nice for designers is playing around with ideas of the visible and invisible, and the material’s special ability to change from being active to passive.
So a balance then between use and beauty …
TK: There’s a big discussion at the moment about art and science. But our work on BlingCrete and functionalizing concrete surfaces are practical projects that combine these two fields. What’s inspiring is having the chance to work with people from all types of fields: scientists and experts in material physics, alongside artists, architects and designers.
Our work is on materials, but we are interested in the immaterial! We only use the material as a reference to things that are more conceptual: that’s what we do.
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