If we wanted to identify the turning point that digital has brought to the world of design, perhaps we shouldn't look for it in the cauldron of more or less unrealistic images generated in the last year and a half through Midjourney and other AI-based programs.
There is in fact an episode that anticipates the explosion of generative software by a few months and is the best candidate to enter future design history textbooks like the previous one destined to change its course.
Let's talk about the Hortensia Chair by Andrés Reisinger, the exemplary armchair made of thousands of petals, born as an imaginative render from the will of the Argentine talent based in Barcelona to brave the frustration of not being able to see their over the top creations in the form of real prototypes.
Few would have thought that that artificial creature, perfect for breaking the bank on social media, could one day become a company's catalog product.
And instead, a year later, Moooi, the Dutch brand co-founded by Marcel Wanders, announced that it was putting Hortensia into production after a sophisticated process of engineering entrusted to Júlia Esqué, a product designer specialized in textiles, capable of converting the impossible into the assembly of twenty thousand 'petals' of fabric.
What actually converted the game of a nerd (Reisinger himself says he was a precocious video game inventor as a teenager) was actually the Copernican revolution that overturned a stereotype: we are used to thinking of digital as an escape from the world, here instead a product of pure fantasy returned to Earth giving life to a game of cross-references between reality and fiction to become the basis of a new aesthetic.
Reisinger is the best-known talent of a generation of digital natives accustomed to mixing reality and fiction in an exercise as sophisticated as it is natural for those who cultivate a spontaneous practice with everything that starts from an Instagram filter and ends Midjourney.
For this reason, brands like Moooi have taken up the challenge announced by his render and opened a new path for furniture.
It is difficult to think that without the precedent of the Hortensia Chair, the Dutch company would have stimulated Nika Zupanc to design the very recent Knitty Lounge Chair, another masterpiece of digital craftsmanship that grains and enhances the textile weaving evoking the yarns at the base of ship ropes or a ball of wool in an unreal dimension.
After all, there is already talk of Dreamscapes Generation, from the title of a rich and documented volume by Gestalten, Dreamscapes & Artificial Architecture, to indicate those creatives around the age of 30 active between imaginary and dream worlds who for some time have been teaching us how digital is not only an opportunity to escape, but also a pretext to leave and then return to Earth.
As the text explains, "freed from the constraints of the physical world, these dreamscapes expand the possibilities for architecture and for interior design".
Which is what, more or less intentionally, we are taught to do by creatives like Alexis Christodoulou, who came to 3D design from the world of advertising. Or Krista Kim, the designer and artist of the first house on Mars who became an example of NFT applied to the real estate sector, which has since populated the web with chairs made of a bioluminescent material to defy the concept of gravity.
Underlying everything there is only one rule: the absence of rules. Which is another way of reminding us how in the end fantasy can break conventions and rituals that seem eternal.