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Each year at Design Miami/, Swarovski collaborates with a designer on a site-specific installation using Swarovski crystals. This year they’ve tapped Fernando Romero, head of Mexico City’s Fernando Romero EnterprisE (FR-EE)—responsible for the soon-to-open Mexico City Airport and Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya—to create something for the fair. We spoke with Romero about his planned geodesic structure, entitled El Sol, which explores man’s relationship with the sun.
WHITEWALLER: El Sol explores man’s relationship with the sun. Why was this something you wanted to explore? Was this a point of interest in any of FR-EE’s recent projects?
FERNANDO ROMERO: Man’s relationship to the sun is a fundamental part of our lives on earth. It defines our sleep cycles and how we live our lives in every way possible. At the same time, there’s still a sense of mystery to the sun and it’s something we continue to learn more and more about. Much of our work at FR-EE is directly influenced by nature and biomimicry. The sun represents life for us as much as for our ancestors.
WW: Had you previously worked with the material of crystal before?
FR: No, this is our first time.
WW: What qualities of the material interested you?
FR: There’s so much history with crystal and with Swarovski as a company. I’m also quite interested in the potential shapes and symmetries of crystal and how crystals interact with light. They are quite experimental as a material and impact the viewer’s experience of a space in a way that many other materials don’t. When used architecturally, they can have such an extraordinary impact on the eye and our perception.
WW: El Sol is one billion times smaller than the sun and pays homage to geometry used by Aztec and Mayans to monitor celestial events. How did you incorporate that with today’s technology to create this installation?
FR: This is one of the most interesting challenges for us—this dichotomy between modern technology and ancient history. The capabilities of the Aztecs and Mayans at the time is incredible in its sophistication and precision. Today, technology is advancing at such a quick pace that it allows us to do things and create experiences that wouldn’t have been possible even ten years ago. The capabilities of Swarovski’s design team in Wattens, Austria, allowed us to create a design that is also incredibly precise in its use of geometry and scale.
WW: Are those historic and cultural techniques something you reference in other aspects of your design practice?
FR: Yes, our practice is very much informed by Mexican history and culture. There’s such a vast expanse of cultural and historic references in Mexican culture that have been lost over time or that are lesser known outside of the country. It is important to us as a practice that we revisit these stories in a more modern way and bring them to a wider audience, while also putting our work into the larger cultural context.
WW: Was there any aspect of working with crystal and LED lights that might inform your architecture and design practice or upcoming projects?
FR: Crystal is a unique material in its relationship with light—it radiates colors that strike the human eye.
WW: What sort of viewer experience are you hoping to achieve from El Sol?
FR: Design fairs can often be a place where people are quickly running around, trying to see everything in a short amount of time. With El Sol, we want to create an environment in which people can stop and have a more personal, reflective experience. When you think about new technologies like extraordinarily advanced cameras—and how that allows us to see the sun in new ways—it’s quite inspiring. The sun is obviously a fundamental part of our lives, and to think that we are still discovering new things about it and our relationship to it is extraordinary and humbling. At the same time, the technology behind Swarovski’s materials allows us to explore many of these ideas in a way that people can directly interact with. There is so much to see in Miami during Design Miami/ and Art Basel and we hope that our installation makes people stop, even for a moment, and think about our place as humans in the universe. And at the same time get a surprise with the beauty of the crystal.
El Sol is on view at Design Miami/ through Sunday, December 6.