NEOTENIC DESIGN

An A/D/O Workspace Member Spotlight designed and curated by JUMBO on view in March


From March 5, 2019 until March 28, 2019
A/D/O’s “Member Spotlight” series continues with Neotenic Design, a month-long exhibition of neotenic furniture designs curated by JUMBO (Workspace member Justin Donnelly and Monling Lee). Select objects by Konstantin Gircic, Jaime Hayon, Faye Toogood, Sylvain Willenz, Chris Wolston and others will be displayed on a series of podia that have been custom created for the exhibition and mirror the recent trend towards neoteny in design.
As a species, human beings are subconsciously moved by big eyes, round heads, chubby cheeks, and pudgy extremities. It is widely believed that when we see them, a dark recess in our brains – the amygdala – releases a surge of nurturing affection, telling us that we are encountering a child and that we should conduct ourselves accordingly. Only, the amygdala is evolutionarily quite old and is easily fooled. We experience similar sensations whether we are looking at baby humans, baby animals, cute cartoons, or even inanimate objects like a table or a chair.
In 1872, Charles Darwin first speculated that the affection we feel for infants might be due in part to “inherited habit”. In 1949, the Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz built on this idea, theorizing that juvenile features were “innate releasing mechanisms” to elicit nurturing and affection in the viewer. After cataloging the morphological differences between juveniles and adults of different animal species, Lorenz postulated a “kinderschema” that included “a relatively large head, predominance of the brain capsule, large and low-lying eyes, bulging cheek region, short and thick extremities, a springy elastic consistency, and clumsy movements.”
Recently, the designers and brands have produced a host of childlike furniture and lighting. There is nuance in how different designers employ the principles of neoteny, but on the whole, neotenic furniture and lighting design includes three primary features: thickened forms; soft or rounded terminations; and monomaterials. While these form giving strategies are not new, taken together, they represent a new way of thinking about the objects with which we surround ourselves. If we see childlike characters in our chairs and sofas, perhaps it will result in greater sociality in the living room and the workplace.
A/D/O
March 5-28, 2019