Alicja Strzyzynska and Onur Iseri established Studio AOAO in 2020 as an interdisciplinary practice combining art and design. Based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the product designer duo aims at designing sculptural furniture pieces that function as mediums of emotional expression, by experimenting with the functionality of furniture and the context of its sculptural inference. “All of our work seeks the experience of intimacy and the metaphysical bond between personal interaction and meaningful narrative. Through sculptural value and reflective design, we aim to create pieces that last for generations and help reduce environmental waste,” says Strzyzynska and Onur.
The creative design studio debuted its first collection Living Forms— which embraces soft curves and sinuous cutouts as a reflection of flowing forms, telling a different story from every angle— during Milan Design Week 2021. Enhancing their art and design sensibilities further, the designer duo is now presenting an evolving collection of sculptural luminaires titled Wonder Things. Currently comprising two pendant lamps, ‘Ikigai’ and ‘Bosei,’ the collection embraces Japanese concepts of the same name to craft the two unique pieces. "In our works, light plays an integral role. While creating the object, we consider light as our core material and we carve the form around it to reveal the glow most meaningfully,” exclaim the designers.
Wonder Things, just as the name suggests, aims at drawing in the observer’s emotional state by engaging with their thoughts and channelling introspection to realise the mind’s perceptive canvas. Strzyzynska and Onur experimented with shapes and light reflections on different surfaces and utilised layering techniques with gypsum to sculpt the lights. "The objects are born from our fascination with the contrast between the absence of symmetry and the impression of solidity," says Strzyzynska. The designers resided in Japan for many years, leading them to adapt traditional Japanese philosophies in their design concepts.
Ikigai, the Japanese concept, translating to the source of value in a person’s life making life worthwhile, served as the inspiration for the first pendant light. The Ikigai lamp interprets the philosophy in a physical form, offering a lighting design the solution that not just illuminates the entire space, but has a personal narrative to it. The colossal white lamp appears as a carved stone impersonating the enlightenment of the human soul. The contorted globular shape incorporates multiple cutouts that gradually reveal the light source within. The lamp carved in gypsum softens around the individual openings and emphasises the philosophy of self-discovery through introspection. The heavy mass of the object is emblematic of the deeply concealed purpose of every individual, that is cocooned within a shell, and eventually reveals one’s true self. The lamp, on certain levels, is also figurative in nature. The changing contours are interpretive of an abstract human form embosoming a precious lambent jewel. The main challenge for the designer duo was to create a sculptural form that was shaped to be a continuously flowing story, without a beginning or an end. The flow of perspectives and looping shape was only realised by suspending the mass in the air.
Furthermore, encompassing the Japanese term for ‘motherhood,’ the Bosei pendant lamp was sculptured as a representative correlation between protection and comfort. Symbolic of motherhood and a warm embrace, the created piece has a distinctive look and feel from different sides, provoking a different emotional response and having opposing qualities. The protective outer shell appears to be robust and sturdy. The lamp's cutouts are positioned to divulge the golden orange tones of the light inside, forming a sense of warmth and tranquillity. Ultimately demonstrating internal transformation.
The continuously looped openings discourage the viewers from establishing a start or an end to the shape, offering a colourfully punctured form within which, though the main source of light might not be visible, its presence is evidently felt. Additionally, the lamp also bears semblance to an object a child can play with while inducing a sense of comfort with its presence. However, when achieving the shape of the lamp, the main challenge faced by the studio was to create a large object, while keeping it light but strong enough to hang onto a ceiling. The form was created using a steel mesh and then covered with fibreglass and layered with multi-toned gypsum.
The works of Studio AOAO have previously been represented through major design galleries at different design events including Rossana Orlandi Gallery during the Milan Design Week 2021 and collaborative presentations at ROGallery and Galerie Philia in the United States.