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Mohaded: «Current crises are undoubtedly the result of the production and consumer culture we have been tied to for decades; for that reason, design, alongside architecture, education, science, industry, and politics, must reframe its objectives»

The renowned Catamarca-native designer Cristián Mohaded, head of his own studio with headquarters in Buenos Aires and Milan, analyzes the links between design and technique in our present context.

Born in Recreo and an industrial design graduate from the National University of Cordoba, Cristián Mohaded currently splits his time between Buenos Aires and Milan. His career has been devoted to both product development and design for national and international companies and interior and artistic direction.

During his brief but frantic career he has won several design awards and participated in fairs and exhibitions in cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Miami, Frankfurt, Milan, Paris, and London, just to name a few venues.

Known for the artisan-industrial quality of his pieces and his formal and technical experimentation, he was named one of the most important designers on the rise of the American continent in the Maison & Objet (United States, 2015) encounter and at the Salone del Mobile in Milan (Italy, 2018), chosen by the Campana brothers and Marva Griffin; he currently appears in the list of the global 25 rising designers published by the Dezeen Awards (England, 2019).

At the same time, pieces like the Twist #2 chair (2013), designed in collaboration with Ricardo Blanco, or the work he has done as part of his Entrevero project, presented at Design Miami (United States, 2018) and acknowledged as the best collection at the CRE Design Awards (France, 2020), have been acquired by such institutions as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, respectively.

As a guest collaborator of the “Expert Opinion” section of the August issue of the Old&Newsletter, Mohaded elaborates upon the significance of creating hybrid products that are true and appropriate for their contexts.

–Can we rethink or redefine the meaning of design from a technical standpoint? And redefine technique from design’s perspective? Can either one be separated from the other?

– If we understand that technique is “a set of procedures or resources applied in arts....”, we can conclude that design is also technique. It basically is a process that profits from different methods to create a certain experience. I do not think they can be separated, since the field of project development has always been tied to technique: design materializes thanks to technique and vice versa, they receive feedback and aid from one another because they share the same nature.

A project is constituted by different branches of both analysis and action. One of those branches is technique, which always reflects a specific way of thinking and is connected to its environment. The context of production and the applied techniques are usually ignored. That, of course, is a serious mistake, since the main asset required for a technical-design (or design-technical) operation is the human resource along with its know-how.

–What cases, actors, products or elements related to Argentine and international culture embody an uplifting experience of that sort?

–Without labeling it as a “transcendent experience” but rather as a herald of that kind of bond or pairing in Argentina, I can make reference to my project Entrevero.
The collection crossed over the boundaries between design and art, between design and industry. Through it, the discipline, understood as a representation method, expressed itself using different handcraft, artistic, and industrial techniques. Based on a personal interpretation of material resources and know-how, an experience that tells a local narrative at a global level was created. The result, of a plural nature, supersedes the obvious, thus achieving a new language that is successful not merely for the pieces themselves but for the dialogue established among them.

Crafts, time, and specific cultural features attain value when they are connected to a timeless, diverse, unique, and collaborative perspective. It is an exercise that gathers the authentic thoughts of each author and shakes regional techniques by taking them out of their comfort zone with the aim of creating a new universe of objects and relationships.
We understand design as a platform that enables us to acquire and transfer ideas; as a connection and communication tool that encourages us to blend; and as a way to share how we feel, think, make, and reinterpret what we conceive as our own, unique baggage.

–Has the bond between design and technique changed throughout the XXI century as a result of new technologies and new ways of teaching, living, consuming, and interacting?

–Design and technical skills are currently exploring new formats, platforms, and strategies to work jointly. They are slowly adapting to one another following a process that cannot be forced, on the contrary, it has to be built on a daily basis. The world needs and demands it, that is why our profession should not stay on the sidelines of these changes and must start planning but devise actions that uplift and respect the emerging dynamics.

Part of the challenge of adapting to current transformations experienced by society and culture is to recover, improve, and reframe techniques that will become the unavoidable paths to create in conscious and transversal ways. Based on my own experience, I consider design becomes more nurturing, evolutionary, and honest when it is an integral, hybrid practice; and, one of the most enriching fusions is certainly represented by the harmonious relations established between craftsmanship —which provides knowledge, tradition, and technique— and industry —which contributes with innovation, technology, and development.

–How can we boost the potential of this pairing in order to produce innovative solutions that foster improvement in such areas as social inclusion, cultural diversity, gender equality, environmental care, and access to education?

–I do not consider it a simple pairing: it is more of a complex and open system. Our discipline is responsible for organizing, decoding, and processing information in order to provide solutions (either right or wrong) to specific problems. Design responses to particular demands can obviously have more or less success depending on specific contexts; plus, the fact that they are “solutions” does not mean we should conceive them as being unique or absolute. Contributions and utility have to be measured directly in relation to the methodologies, processes, limitations, expectations, and aims of the task. In other words, the key issue is “the way in which” design and technique come together to accomplish a shared goal.

This said, it is not simple to define an action agenda that can improve these issues. It is clear, however, that design can (and should) provide answers. Design cannot become a ground-less discipline.

I have observed that, when putting into practice the profession, the close connections among design, culture, environment, and industry are often overlooked despite the fact that the field has unleashed significant changes in our planet, not only for the better. Current crises are undoubtedly the result of the production and consumer culture we have been tied to for decades; for that reason, design, alongside architecture, education, science, industry, and politics, must reframe its objectives.