Noé Duchaufour Lawrance doesn’t want you to see nature in his work. He wants you to feel it. This week at Design Miami/Basel, the architect will introduce Naturoscopie, a collection of furniture that attempts to recreate the sensations associated with nature in a controlled environment.
The idea behind Naturoscopie isn’t to represent nature through an image. Instead of painting a landscape or photographing the sky, Duchaufour Lawrance has built series of machines that abstract the natural world–a sunset or a cloudy sky, for example–using high-tech materials and programmed electronics.
Duchaufour Lawrance explains that he wanted the work to go “beyond a literal transcription of nature.” A carbon-fiber light fixture, for example, affects sun filtering through a tree canopy with tiny mosaics of colored mirror and LEDs. A smoky plexiglass coffee table becomes the projection screen for a distorted, fuzzy photograph of the northern lights. A desk lamp made of white honeycomb plastic and shimmering LEDs casts shadows that mimic those of a passing cloud. The pieces are all synthetic, made from carbon fiber, plexiglass, and polyamid–which amplifies the strangeness of it all.
Artificial nature is not a particularly new idea, which is why it’s interesting to see it re-hashed through the lens of furniture design. Countless sci-fi books and films imagine deep-space travel scenarios, where sensory chambers reproduce the feeling of sun filtering through trees, or the smell of grass, to nature-starved astronauts. But the idea that we want to recreate memories of the natural world on our coffee tables and mirrors, while we’re still here on a functioning planet, is almost stranger than fiction.