Coming to a Driveway (or Runway?) Near You

By Linda Hales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Rarely has the shape of the future looked so outrageously exciting.

Images emerging from the world's fair of design underway in Milan squelch the status quo with experimental technologies and progressive materials. Spectacular forms escape at last from the boxy confines of modernism. Brash optimism infuses new ideas and proves the brilliance of human creativity, at least when commercial constraints are removed.

Contemplate these examples of exotica-in-progress:

· A solar-powered concept car shimmers with Swarovski crystals, which might enhance the power of the sun. There's no engine, and no wheels, on this car-as-object -- although this handcrafted, stainless steel cocoon could await a Next Gen driver.

· A plastic chair comes with a wardrobe of Issey Miyake upholstery that the owner can wear on the town. There's no point asking why. Don the down-filled cushion vest and go.

· After 80 years of industrial kitchens, domestic chefs can dream of rolling out cookie dough in a wall-to-wall sculpture. A cool, wired Corian model has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, who is said to be installing one like it at home.

· And for his latest chair, Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka kneaded synthetic foam like dough and baked it.

Design's frontier is officially unveiled at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, which opened Wednesday and runs through tomorrow. There, images rocket through cyberspace faster than the estimated 200,000 visitors make the rounds of showrooms. Modern living is defined by the colors and shapes that are unveiled and ultimately shipped to design stores such as Contemporaria in Georgetown and carried by the catalogue chain Design Within Reach. The most glamorous furniture, lighting and bath fixtures turn up in hotels, restaurants and casinos, as well as college libraries, museum cafes and airport lounges.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company