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Design Indaba 2017

Capturing Tranquility In Chaos

This designer draws geometric inspiration from unusual places.

Tuami Zulu, a designer based in Johannesburg, South Africa, works for a small firm named Proportion – Studio of Design. He created an award-winning piece of furniture – a design that is somewhere between a bench and a sculpture – by exploring the dichotomy of anarchy and calm. He will exhibit his work as part of the Emerging Creatives class of 2017 at the Design Indaba Conference in March.

We asked Zulu to elaborate on the thinking process that eventually led to this highly conceptual bench. Despite the angular and inorganic aesthetic of the design, Zulu’s creative decisions came from a curiosity about the connections humans make with their surroundings.

By suspending rationality in favour of unadulterated creativity, Zulu was able to explore, merge and test different ideas that did not necessarily make sense, but eventually led him to the ingredients which formed the basis of his unique sculptural project.

“I played around with many ideas that never made sense to me even to this this day. I enjoy the process of trying out new things and being able to develop these conceptual designs. Experimental art, the language of space and my obsession with human behaviour – these are the core of my creative foundation.”

The concept of duality, or rather the investigation of two opposing extremes, often gives artists the necessary bandwidth to express a dialogue in a succinct way. In Zulu’s case, it was about finding tranquillity (simple lines, geometry) in chaos (nature, animals). He describes nature itself as a great fount of inspiration for linear, mathematical design.

“Geometry is everywhere and nature is a great source for all designers. I like to believe that nature has a lot to offer. We find ourselves digging in the digital world for inspiration and end up looking just like the next person. I have trained my eye to able to identify primitive geometry in the most complex forms.”

It was the refined pose of a human dancer that formed the starting point for Zulu’s jagged sculpture. Though the design ostensibly went through several rounds of translation (as documented in Zulu’s interesting process sketches), at its heart, the bench is a reconstruction of the human form. Zulu explains the kind of backwards deconstruction method that he used to translate the shape of the dancer, like creating a visual dance in reverse.

“The elaborative pose in my design was broken down in a rhythmic way by re-arranging the human anatomy so that I still maintained the right proportions of the body, but I later allowed it to conform to the laws of the built environment as a conceptual sculpture. So that, for me, was finding the tranquillity in chaos.”

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