Breaking the chains of social, political, and economic constraints where one treads imagination with caution, Surrealism is a breath of fresh air that liberates humankind from the drudgery of the mundane. Much sought never-seen-before designs by audiences with ever-evolving tastes have brought about a stunning comeback of the influential Surrealist ideologies in Architecture and Interiors.
Let us look at ten such designers practicing Surrealism in the recent past:
1. Philippe Starck
Fondly known as the ‘King of Design,’ Starck has a free-spirited design approach that extends to a variety of typologies and scales. He has significantly succeeded in making his name resound like a brand, with products and ideas having surrealist tendencies of the unexpected continuing to fascinate people worldwide.
Brach, Paris: Yearning to provide a timeless, immersive, and inspiring experience, the artist has employed poetic mysteries, unusual objects, and a selection of artworks that come together for a surprisingly eclectic atmosphere with exotic multi-cultural influences that is reminiscent of Andre Breton’s Apartment.
Maison Baccarat, Moscow: Dripping in crystals, opulence, and glamour, luxury takes center stage while Starck claims that nothing is real and that everything is an illusion.
Maison Heler, Metz: Entirely designed and created from the ground up by Philippe Starck, this 14-story out-of-scale ‘phantasmagoric’ hotel promises to create ‘habitable, surreal and poetic work of art.’
2. Karim Rashid
Recipient of the prestigious ‘American Prize for Design’ for the year 2020, Karim Rashid has a remarkable quantum of work in different disciplines of design. Rashid describes the experience created in his spaces is similar to that of being inside a Kaleidoscope with fun’ crazed patterns’ and surreal ‘dizzying possibilities.’
3. Fabio Novembre
The Italian Architect/designer has designed statement furniture, installations, and interiors with his decisive, innovative style. He calls himself an ‘amateur’ who loves to experiment by continually raising new questions, and putting love in his work.
Natuzzi – Intro, Triennale di Milano: Taking inspiration from the egg’s ovoid shape and its form, which represents life and transformation, he has managed to create a leather bedroom inside a chrome eggshell that allows visitors to be engulfed by the warm, intensely red leather room and see themselves within the form of a surreal womb.
Meltin’ Pot – NY Showroom: Novembre conceived the space as a surreal 3-Dimensional development of the American Flag where the blue is on the floor, ribbon-like red strip that transforms itself into a counter, neutral white finds its place on the ceiling and stars become display features.
Stuart Weitzman, Roma: Suggestive of Surrealist automatism, a continuous ribbon runs all along with space, creating paths on which the shoes trace vectors of desire.
Il Fiore di Novembre: Offering a sensory experience grounded in poetic rhetoric, the exhibit based on an abstract of a rose, transports the onlooker in an unprecedented way, providing a plurality of new interpretations.
4. Cyril Lancelin
The French artist mixes fiction and reality by combining technology and art to create experiential designs. He explores the artificial landscape, the scale, and relationship of the built environment to the human body through his ideas created using parametric tools.
House’ geometry’: Geometric forms are juxtaposed for the house structure, and this, in turn, creates ethereal interiors.
House ‘Hemi’: seemingly made of balls or bubbles, the design images conjure up one’s childhood fantasies.
‘Wireframe’: The designer transforms the basketball court into a vibrant, colorful art with a grid of pink doughnuts and squares fence where the spectator plays as much as the player.
5. Marcel Wanders
With a mission statement of making the ‘most exciting dreams come true,’ they specialize in creating iconic experiences where poetry, fantasy, and romance of different ages come together in the contemporary world.
Oh! Wanders & Yoo: The residential project has been conceptualized based on three different elements of nature: Air, Fire, and Earth, whose characteristics reflect in the design.
Mandarina duck Flagship Store: The iconic store’s location is rooted in the legendary Gulliver’s tale, which makes its presence evident in the seven-meter tall figure, making the space surreal and humanized simultaneously.
Villa Moda Bahrain: Dramatic and evocative, the treasure trove hosting international luxury brands showcases the artisanship, motifs, and techniques of local craftsmen in an exaggerated scale which merges with the metallic futuristic appeal. Moreover, mannequins with mirror heads, stand out with over-the-top poses and electrify the ambiance.
6. X + Living
Bold, mesmerizing, and captivating, this relatively young design practice with international acclaim manages to surprise one in every new project with their inimitable creativity.
Zhuyeqing Tea Store: The designers have ingeniously created a smooth and soft landscape representing the clouds and mountains to provide an extraordinary sensory experience. Elegant and soothing, the store radiates modern poetry with a hint of serene nature in the most unexpected way.
Loong swim club: Whimsical, the fairytale-like design reduces one to embrace child-like excitement eager to explore and discover this giant doll-house.
Chongqing zhongshuge bookstore: This award-winning design uses excessive geometry, symmetry, and mirrors to create a teetering optical maze-like illusion that transcends reality.
7. Ettore Sottsass
Designing for ‘ ‘life states,’ Sottsass founded the bold, striking, fun, kitsch, and colorful Memphis movement.
His versatile body of work includes the design of furniture, lighting, fabrics, carpets, ceramics, glass, home objects, interiors, and architecture.\
His palette and aesthetics emanate the essence of the celebrated Surreal Artist Joan Miro’s style of automatism.
8. Studio Renesa
The firm seeks to create unique experiences that mold the design of brands and their strategies. The infusion of daring compositions in the spaces has paved the way for an indelible sensory dialogue.
The Pink Zebra: The hybrid adaptive-reuse design contains British Raj elements merged with a modern aesthetic filled with symmetry and patterns to give a funky, quirky, and surreal appeal.
The Flip-Flop: This visually attractive pop-up store has deployed repetition, color blocking, and interactive spatial elements to reinforce the symmetric perspective to captivate potential customers.
The Geometrization: A maze-like modern take of incorporating traditional Indian architecture elements from Jantar Mantar enthralls the visitor with its playful, fragmented geometric shapes, volumetric galleries, and partitioned masses.
9. The Busride
The experimental studio heading towards speculative design, has continuously pushed the limits of creativity and occasionally touched upon the surreal realm.
Folly house: Completely reimagining the living spaces in an apartment set up, the designers have created an open plan home using multi-functional or mobile objects such that there exists a constant discovery of unpredictable new relationships between those dynamic objects.
Smoke House Deli: The design that originated as a parody of the opulent and shallow restaurant culture, ended up with the trademark hand-illustrated black-on-white stenciled murals depicting the cultural landscape filled with warmth, humor, and a hint of nostalgia.
Smokehouse Room and SHRoom: Molten organic design promises to offer a mind-bending surreal psychedelic experience through a neo-futuristic expression.
10. Vincent Darré
Self-professed French dandy and maximalist decorator, Darré’s creations are works of art and a surreal treat for sore eyes. A background in the fashion industry gave him an edge to take the interior design world by a storm. Appeasing to his audience who love to be surprised and brought into dream-like spaces, Darré is ‘unafraid of color or bad taste’ and designs with absolute abandonment of all rules with humor and eccentricity.
Let us dig deep inside our unconscious, free the hidden desires, break down the boundaries between dreams and waking life to discover truths larger or more real than reality.