An entirely new light
“I think that for Swarovski this collection means an entirely new quality of light,” says Tord Boontje, chatting in his South-East London studio as he presents the prototypes: organically formed crystals that haven’t been polished or cut. From September 18 to 24 his work “Luminous Reflections” for the Swarovski Crystal Palace is to be exhibited as part of the London Design Festival. For this longstanding Austrian firm, the latest result of what is now their twelfth collaboration with Tord Boontje means deviating from their familiar design language – instead of relying on the magical sparkle the light of the LEDs in “Luminous Reflections” is reflected softly by the crystal elements.
For the designer, the glow of the light was his starting point when creating the “Luminous Reflections” collection. “For me, working with crystals basically means working with light itself. And the first question I ask myself is what light I want to create,” explains Tord Boontje. At his mood board he has assembled images that come primarily from nature by way of inspiration: the gentle sunlight in a winter landscape, for example, or the reflections on the surface of a lake. “We live in a very hectic world, so it’s nice to design something that creates spaces, that has a very calming effect,” says the designer, describing his approach to the creative process. In the Swarovski archive in Wattens he discovered jewelry designs from the 1960s and 1970s – pressed, figurative elements that were not polished or cut. “For me it was interesting to see how the crystals refract and change the light, and it was this that gave me the idea of what form could work for the new components.”
In order to understand and further develop the possibilities of this form of crystal glass, Tord Boontje initially produced oval models made of clay, and then his sketches were digitized and the first prototypes were cut from glass blocks using a CNC milling machine: “It’s only using the glass model that you can see whether or not the idea works.” In order to be able to create reflections that are as interesting as they are varied, you need a design language that is simple yet also complex. For
Swarovski Crystal Palace, Boontje’s new development represented a technical challenge: To produce the samples it was first necessary to find new solutions, because the organic versions could not be cut to the desired shape from a block of glass as is the case with cut crystals. Neither could the polishing method used to date be applied to the new elements. Nevertheless, the effort involved in developing new tools and methods paid off. The result is four elements (“Luminous Bough”, “Lustrous Astra”, “Shimmering Jewel”, “Radiant Light”) and three crystal components (“Arc”, “Swirl”, “Circle”) which can be individually combined with one another. “For me as a designer it is very interesting to see how these components are used in order to design something new.” Giving crystals an organic form and thus changing the way they are perceived marks a high point for designer Tord Boontje in his collaboration with Swarovski Crystal Palace: “The new doors this opens up are like a new world. And that’s a very exciting moment.”