Quest to discover the latest methods to manipulate materials

Yang Di
Based between Vancouver and Berlin, Omer Arbel cultivates a fluid position between the fields of architecture, sculpture, invention and design. 
Yang Di
Quest to discover the latest methods to manipulate materials
Fahim Kassam / Ti Gong

Omer Arbel is the co-founder and creative director of lighting and manufacturing brand Bocci

Who is he?

Based between Vancouver and Berlin, Omer Arbel cultivates a fluid position between the fields of architecture, sculpture, invention and design. Focal themes of his work include the  ongoing investigation of intrinsic mechanical, physical and chemical qualities of materials, and the exploration of light as a dynamic medium.

Arbel is the co-founder and creative director of lighting and manufacturing brand Bocci. His practice also focuses on innovative architectural projects and collaborations with cultural institutions and in the public realm. During 2020 Arbel will debut two solo exhibitions — one with Aedes Architekturforum in Berlin and another with Carwan Gallery in Athens.

Please share some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

I really love project 71, which is a sculpture that results from a repetitive process of submerging machine bolts wrapped in copper wire into a nickel based chemical solution and introducing an electric current. After countless repetitions of the process over long intervals of time, metal accretions begin to grow on the machine bolt surface, in response to the haphazard form of the electromagnetic field around each bolt. The pieces are threaded around a cable and hung in a room as a necklace. The reason I love it is because it is ugly in a beautiful kind of way.

Are you currently involved with any project?

We are currently building an ambitious house called 75, which makes use of a technique of pouring concrete into fabric formwork deployed within plywood rib structures, yielding walls and columnar roof forms. We love it because the technique acknowledges the material’s plastic nature and prescribes its own unique geometry. The fabric-formed concrete elements are treated as if they were found archeological ruins in the hay field landscape, with the house considered a contemporary construction built around and among them. Differing height and position for each column creates a cinematographic narrative of domestic habitation. The trumpet shape of each fabric formed column is hollow, allowing planting of mature trees on the inhabited roofscape.

What is your design style?

I am interested in the intrinsic chemical, physical and mechanical properties of materials. At our studio we strive to invent new open ended methods of manipulating materials, with the intention of letting the intrinsic properties of a given material suggest its form, rather than impose an external idea of form upon the material.

Where are you most creative?

In my sleep. 

What does your home mean to you?

A corner of the world where things make sense. 

What do you collect?

Fine glassware. Recent acquisitions include a small vase by late Italian architect Carlo Scarpa and a set of Murano drinking glasses.

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