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Modern Primitives by Aranda/Lasch x Fendi

Fendi’s ongoing partnership with design and architecture duo Aranda/Lasch, titled Modern Primitives, combines technology with Old-World craftsmanship for decidedly modern results. This past week, we got to a moment to chat with one-half of the pair, Benjamin Aranda, about the collaboration, which debuted at last year’s Venice Biennale.

Using an unconventional type of foam, Aranda/Lasch presented graphic black-and-white sculptures, which were placed outside to be used as chairs, inviting visitors to sit on and engage with them. “[The foam] is the same thing they use in the back of pick-up trucks—a spray-on liner. It comes in all these awesome new colors and it makes [the sculpture] impervious to weather, so it can stay outdoors,” explained Ben.

The idea for these interactive, futuristic-looking geometric forms, however, came about while Ben and his partner, Chris Lasch, were playing around inside their studio. “We are architects, but we also do some special projects and furniture, installations—things like that. We like to do these experiments and see what comes out. In this case, with this specific unit, we are really interested in building things that are always the same shape, but at different scales. So this becomes a three-dimensional brick. The three-dimensional shape is called an octahedron. It’s an eight-sided shape, based off a quasi-crystal. Because it is all modulated, it is a way of structuring the formation so you can create lots of things from it that can be used for furniture, jewelry…on an architectural scale, you can build bridges out of it.”

In December, the installation moved to Design Miami/, where Silvia Venturini Fendi handcrafted fur-and-leather overlays for the chairs, quilting the coverings to mimic the shape of the eight-sided sculptures. In addition to adding a “fashionable” element to the artwork, the unexpected juxtaposition of supple and angular invited a tactile experience.

Modern Primitives’ most recent incarnation premiered this past Thursday at the Fendi New York flagship store on 5th Avenue. For the event, Fendi craftswoman Ester di Sarno hand-stitched—using the famous Fendi “Sellaria” stitch and leathers—coverings to demonstrate the craftsmanship that goes into each piece of this continual collaboration. The live installation also underscored Fendi’s “Fatto a Mano for the Future” platform (“fatto a mano” being a nice way of saying DIY or “handmade” in Italian), which combines the Roman brand’s artisanal philosophy and expertise, dating back nearly a century, with new digital technology.

For example, Aranda\Lasch conceived an exclusive iPad app for the collaboration that enables clients to create and then customize their own piece. In the meantime, the Modern Primitives sculptures are temporarily on display in the store, making it a divine place to sit down and try on some shoes. And though the artwork is not for sale, the brand’s Spring 2011 collection features silk scarves and handbag linings that boast the same Aranda/Lasch octahedron pattern—the interior of the ‘Peekaboo’ bag has it printed on Washi, a rare Japanese medicinal fabric made from plants. Ben told us the next idea is turn these modular structures into buildings… Sounds like future Fendi stores might be really, really cool.

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Ben Aranda and Chris Lasch

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