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Argentinian designers are transforming known materials into something new, sustainable and beautiful.
"I am more excited about the things yet to come than the things I've done," says the upbeat and inventive Patrizio Lix Klett, a founder of La Feliz. The name—the happy one—also refers to the nickname for Mar del Plata (Sea of Silver), the area of Argentina that Klett hails from, considered to be a city of light.
La Feliz is a 14-strong industrial design business centred on material experimentation. Every project has the same beginning, transforming known materials into something new. "The material responds to the challenge we put in front of it," says Klett. They create projects that can be scaled up from smaller prototypes and industrialised for largeÂscale production.
Klett's newest fabric is a laminate made from a recycled leather core with a wood veneer. It takes its cue from the 1940s, when leather fibres replaced cellulose to form leatherboard in place of cardboard. The effect is a bendable wood that uses recycled materials to make it durable and sustainable. "The versatility of the material dictates how many things I can do with it," says Klett.The development of this laminate is part of La Feliz's current focus on technical lighting, an extremely commercial area of industrial design monopolised by a small group of suppliers and products that apply the same design language and highÂtech specifications in a fairly unimaginative way. Klett believes that there is an opportunity for integrating warmer and more tactile materials into this sector.
La Feliz Tablas Collection uses another sustainable laminate, made from strips of 100% recycled wood and 100% recycled acrylic. Instead of using plywood, which is not available in Argentina, the wood consituent of the laminate is called fenolico, a cheap and strong material that is used purely for construction and is rarely used to be shown. Fenolico is totally sustainable, in this case made from layers of wood from fastÂgrowing trees such as eucalyptus and pine. The trees are farmed to counter the threat of deforestation in Argentina, an everÂpresent concern for local designers and makers.
In addition, 100% of the tree harvested is used; even the glue that secures the layers of wood under pressure is made from resin from the same tree. The layered nature of fenolico represents its alternating wood elements—pine, eucalyptus, pine, eucalyptus—which give it a distinct look and also add strength so it cannot bend and makes a good surface material.
The Wicker Collection by La Feliz consists of seating and lighting. Klett nostalgically recalls the wickerwork from the summers in Mar del Plata and embraces the construction technique as a new challenge. His first rattan pieces looked attractive but seemed pointless to him because they didn't push the boundaries of either material or construction. By using waxed plastic (plastico acerado), he set out to create a structure of selfÂ-supported weaving. Here, the test was to develop a woven structure that supports itself without a wooden or steel frame. The finished wicker chair is quite materialÂ intensive, using 600 metres of plastic.
His wicker designs are a good example of Klett's attitude towards texture—he sees it as an inherent part of form. "We use a lot of texture and consider texture to be functional. In a lot of industrial design, texture is left out because it's too difficult to do with CAD [computer aided design]," he says. "It's also more expensive to make moulds when you include texture. In many cases, when texture is used, it is just applied as ornament and is not functional."
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