Remember the last time you reached into the fridge for the milk, anticipating a full—and therefore heavy—carton, but someone drank the last of the moo and carelessly left the container behind, so you misjudged the amount of effort needed to lift the damn thing and nearly flung the empty across the room? There’s an established expectation of weight and mass associated with certain forms—like opaque milk jugs—and materials can have that same effect. Take concrete, for example: Seeing the mainstay of modernism and Brutalist staple is like a visual shorthand for substantial, solid construction. But what if the concrete were disguised in plain sight, taking on the essence of something else entirely?
German designers Miriam Aust and Sebastian Amelung’s Like Paper collection re-imagines concrete’s potential, casting it in forms that appear casually crumpled and crinkled, but are in fact the result of a year-and-a-half-long development process to achieve that surprising lightness of being.
Amelung had previously performed a series of similar experiments for his Rund Um Beton series—"Around Concrete" in German—to create incredibly smooth, incredibly thin, supremely fragile prototypes that were completely hollow inside. He and Aust adapted a rotation-molding method of production to suit the new pendants. "The idea was to use this synthetic stone to build something controversial that looks filigreed, and flexible like paper," Aust tells Co.Design. "The more we understood the concrete, the more possibilities we found to shape the final design. It was like a discussion between us and the material."
The resulting shades each weigh a bit over a pound, and ultimately their thickness hints at the material trickery. And the project actually recalls Folded, the ceramic tiles that London-based studio Raw Edges made a few years back for Mutina, a company that has consistently transformed the way we see surfaces (just take a look at how soft Patricia Urquiola’s stunning Déchirer looks, when in reality it’s hard tile). It is also reminiscent of Victor Vetterlein’s Trash Me lamp, which turns the concept upside down—the concrete-lookin’ light is actually made of egg crates. It seems we’ll never cease to be intrigued by things that defy and confound the norm.