Architizer is hosting the world’s definitive architectural awards program, with 90+ categories and 300+ jurors. As part of an ongoing series, we’re spotlighting projects that fit the “Plus” categories, which tap into topical and culturally relevant themes. Today, in an effort to highlight examples of good candidates for the Plus awards, we present an interview with martin mostböck, whose flaxx chair won a "products+sustainability" a+ award. To see a full list of categories and learn more about the awards, visit awards.architizer.com.
Fantasy and science-fiction films draw us into elaborate worlds that are universes unto themselves, drawn entirely from the imagination. But even the most outlandish realms sometimes have elements that — despite their appearance — are not so otherworldly: they're made by real-world designers enlisted by Hollywood studios for the commission.
The Vienna-based designer Martin Mostböck knows this well, having seen his creations move from Earth into the world of fantasy. The blockbuster film Guardians of the Galaxy featured futuristic products he created; in one scene set on the alien world Xander, Mostböck's angular and futuristic Edge.01, a floor lamp made of an aluminum composite panel, is located just outside the office of the character named The Broker.
After 15 years at Coop Himmelb(l)au, Mostböck left to head up his own practice, and has been designing products for a year and a half. This year he won a Products+Sustainability A+ Award for his striking Flaxx chair, made predominantly from flax and other recycled materials. Architizer sat down with him to discuss his designs, his science-fiction influences, and what it feels like to be featured in an alien world.
Guardians of the Galaxy's Xander. Image via comicbookmovie.com.
So how does a designer get their products into a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster?
The film’s production designers contacted me in June of 2013 and asked where they could get my Arrow planters for a UK movie set. Then they asked if I had anything else in the same style or geometry — I showed them images of the Edge.01, still in its early phases. I was able to produce two just for the studios. This was the first appearance of my products in a Hollywood film, and strangely, if I had tried to get them in outright, it might not have worked.
Did you customize the products or are they exactly the same as you would see them in a regular production?
We customized them. After showing the film production team material samples for the Edge.01, they selected a dark gray anthracite color — that’s what you see in the film. I designed the Edge.01 as a very sculptural object with upward lighting, though in the film it's purely a sculptural element.
The Arrow and Edge.01. Images courtesy Martin Mostböck.
How did it feel to have one or two of your products appropriated as part of this entire world, Xander, that the filmmakers designed?
It’s interesting. They did design the whole world, from the city to its aircraft, but somehow they liked my lamp quite a bit. Much of that world was rendered digitally but it’s my impression they need real objects when the camera looks up-close. That particular scene was filmed in London and they did really good work imaging architecture that was a little futuristic. The aircraft, the spaceships, all are absolutely great.
Were you influenced by science fiction movies and their production design in the past?
Of course, yes. When I was nine years old, Star Wars came out and I built all their spaceship models, from the Millennium Falcon to X-Wings. I had to go out of my way to order these model kits because they weren’t regularly available in Austria. I’m also a big fan of Philip K. Dick and Russian science fiction. In retrospect, it’s no accident I somehow got into a science-fiction film.
Flaxx chair and Best Friends chair (BFC). Images courtesy Martin Mostböck.
Has your work attracted unexpected acclaim, from within or outside the design world?
I am really proud of my Best Friends chair; last year the director of the Museum of Arts and Design asked to include this chair in their collection. For a European, for an Austrian designer, it was a big honor to be part of their collection in New York. The chair’s design was inspired by an old English saying about “a stab in the back” from friends.
Also, I think the Flaxx chair's design is so powerful thanks to its renewable and recyclable material: flax. The material is commonly used in the automobile industry but it’s usually covered in fabric. They don't like to show it in the car's interior but I don't know why. The Flaxx has made it into the Museum of Applied Art in Cologne and it won a Good Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum in 2011.
Any new designs you can tell us about?
Right now I’m working on two new products for Italian companies but they’re not finished yet. They’ll have to remain secret for now!