Unique eyewear can be both definitive and restrictive. That tired cliche of "the designer with weird glasses" is also a metaphor for contemporary design: it paints itself into a corner with choices based on fashion, rather than functionality. Though new styles appear perennially, it’s been awhile since anyone innovated on the basic functionality of the frame.
So it was with great trepidation that Ron Arad—industrial designer and architect of Holon’s Design Museum—accepted an offer to design a line of eyewear for New Eye London. "There are very few new ideas in the world of glasses," the designer writes on his website. "Now everything is retro, or sometimes even a retro of retro. I felt there was something missing."
It took Arad two years to agree to the commission and when he did, it was with the goal of improving functionality, rather than fashion. "How do you free people from the tyranny of the hinge?," he recently told the Financial Times. "How do you free them from the tyranny of the components?"
Arad unveiled his designs earlier this month in a collection called pq (named for the spectacle shape the letters form). And it seems he’s followed through: Both of the frames, Corbs and A-Frame, adjust to fit the wearer’s head without a single screw or hinge.
A-Frame is made from a single wire that loops and doubles back to form the frame. The triangular shape the wire forms at the nose (hence the name "A-Frame") can be raised or lowered to adjust the width between the lenses. When the glasses come off, the arms bend naturally inwards. Noses and heads come in all shapes and sizes, explain the designers, so glasses should be easily adjustable.
The second frame, Corbs, is also hinge-less. "We spent some time looking at animal vertebrae," Arad’s team writes. "We created a hinge that’s flat on the inside but slatted on the outside, so the arms bend inwards but not outwards." The shape—and name—of the frame echoes the original "architect with weird glasses," Le Corbusier.
Of course, hinge or no, we’re still talking about eyeglasses. "Most trousers look like trousers, most sweaters look like sweaters, most glasses look like glasses," comments the designer. "But there is room for something new as well." The two frame designs are available in a number of variations on the pq website.