The work of London-based Romanian architect Vlad Tenu is not easy to explain, but that’s part of its beauty. By integrating multiple disciplines and concepts, Tenu challenges us to find what’s recognisable and what is completely new. Interface includes as one of its inspirations biomimicry, the imitation of elements, models and systems of nature to solve human problems. In Tenu’s collection, Synthetic Nature, we can see how he explores the application of nature’s principles to a beautiful manmade artwork.
In his combination of art, design and science, Tenu created a solo exhibition of art, launched last year at London’s Surface Gallery, that is open to interpretation. Cells, skin or wings? Animals, insects or humans? Natural or artificial? His inspirations were various. Firstly, soap bubbles. Their molecular behaviour involves mathematical relationships, geometrical constraints and algorithms dictated by nature.
Morphology is the branch of biology that addresses the structure and form of organisms and their specific structural features. Certainly, morphological is one word that can be applied to this work whose shapes recall bodies, organs and veins: perhaps the heart, its cavities and chambers.
He also sought to challenge the very concept of a shape; instead of traditional boxes or spheres, or forms that have points and corners; Tenu has instead created shapes with continuous surfaces. Rather than being shapes that are repeatable, they are expandable.
As the architect himself explains, the work is deeply rooted in his architectural background, using his explorations and research into “spatiality, scale and materiality”. Other concepts that drove his creative process for these works were the self-organization of matter, conservation of energy, equilibrium, minimal complexity and minimal surfaces.
The design and use of Interface carpet tiles also reflects an interest in the relationship between nature and humans, in scale and space, and in materiality. The design flexibility of carpet tile allows it to be cut, sliced and rearranged to mimic the patterns of nature on a floor. For example, look closely at this carpet in Coca Cola Plaza that uses the Interface Rococo pattern in custom colours. These combined shapes and colours are open to many possible interpretations: the rings of tree trunks, the cut side of a stack of wood, scales of an animal, a forest canopy in autumn.
Meanwhile, Tenu’s work asks you to look differently at space and form, to question what is inside and what is outside, and what is solid and what is transparent. To create these artworks, “abstract hybrid species”, Tenu combined his skills in architectural design with computation. After studying architecture in Iasi, Lisbon and in London at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, he then went on to be awarded a Msc. in Adaptive Architecture & Computation and a Certificate in Advanced Architectural Research. So he combines both worlds with ongoing research that focuses on the integration of computation, science and technology in the design process, involving generative computational methods, digital fabrication techniques and interactive design.
The prototypes of “Synthetic Nature” are not meant then to only be beautiful. His explorations of space, surface and symmetry are, Tenu says, “interpretable and adaptable to anything from jewellery, fashion, product design and interiors, architecture to fine art”. You can imagine the same form at both gigantic and tiny scale.
“Synthetic Nature” builds on one of Tenu’s previous projects, Minimal Complexity, a multiple-award-winning artwork that also focused on the concept of “minimal period surface”, a structure that is created with the repetition of only 16 different components.