A lot has happened in the year since we last met with Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis of Objects of Common Interest, our 2022 designers of the year. In 2022, the duo opened a manufacturing studio of 800 m² in their native Greece, the result of Romanian-born craftsman Ovidiu Colea donating the contents of his Long Island City manufacturing plant to the couple, as he retired from the business.
Petaloti, Trampoukis and Colea had been collaborating for a few years; in 2017, the three of them created a tableware collection called “Relativity of Color”. Having worked between New York and Athens since launching Objects of Common Interest in 2015, Petaloti and Trampoukis had been flirting with the idea of opening something in Athens for a while. “From the start, we wanted to activate a relationship with Greek manufacturers, to bring something back to our country,” explains Petaloti. “So we took Colea’s workshop and transported it to Piraeus, an area of Athens that historically housed many factories. Finally, for the first time, we will be able to control our own production, which will give us all the freedom in the world for experimentation: it’s like a child with a complete Play-Doh set. Now we can do anything.
The first project produced by the Athens studio was ‘Chronos’, an exhibition curated by Milanese design consultancy Mr Lawrence at Design Miami 2022. Inspired by the concept of time, it featured a landscape that included three new designs from resin lighting, their ‘Polymorph Lounge chair in cast aluminum and two “metamorphic rocks”, a “resting element” on wheels resembling the organic shapes of a rock. The scene was completed with two “Tube” lamps, a design from 2019 that has since been incorporated into several of their projects. The quiet vibe of the set was a response to what Petaloti calls “art fair madness”, as the duo created a “pocket where visitors could catch their breath and feel transported somewhere else”.
2023 promises to be a busy and exciting year for the studio: from January 21, 2023 they will take over Piazza della Libertà in Bergamo, as winners of an international competition for the Italian capital’s flagship installation of Culture 2023, organized by Federica Sala. “It’s the biggest project we’ve worked on so far because of its scale and public presence,” says Petaloti. The project is close to the couple’s early days as architects and will feature an intervention on the imposing Fascist-era Casa della Libertà, using a serpentine light installation to connect the public to the building, while the plaza will feature public seating made from scrap marble. . “The light activates the facade, it’s like a parasitic sculpture that engages every part of it with its environment,” adds Petaloti. “Light is a celebration, a medium that brings people together in a very fundamental way.”
Light is a recurring theme in the work of Objects of Common Interest: in particular, the “Tube” lamps have lent themselves to several interpretations of scale and function. Created in three shapes, the lamps are, as Petaloti describes them, “like Lego, a set of modules that gives you endless possibilities.” Different interpretations of the lamps presented in the takeover by the designers of the Noguchi Museum in 2021. “And now, with these three components, we create this huge public installation: they give us maximum capacity to make new projects from the same work.”
Another characteristic element of their work is the use of iridescent surfaces. An opal resin will be at the center of an exhibition of new works, made in the Piraeus workshop and presented at the Nilufar Gallery during Milan Design Week 2023. “We like to work with iridescent surfaces because they change according to of the lighting conditions, of the weather, of the viewer moves quickly past: you have a continuous dialogue with the pieces,” she says. “They’re almost living creatures.”
Objects of common interest on the judging of the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023
Responsible for judging this year’s shortlists, they immediately singled out Common Knowledge’s Tigín Tiny Homes as one of the life improvement candidates of the year: “We value the connection to the outdoors and the high quality interior for such a mobile home,” they say.
They’re also keen to pass the torch for Designer of the Year to India Mahdavi: “We highly respect that she can go from super elaborate, super colorful, super intense to completely white environments,” says Petaloti. “Going from a multicolored universe to a monochrome universe while being able to transmit his work and keep his identity through these completely different expressions is an example of his genius. But he’s also a very generous and kind person, and one who supports young creators. And that’s very important to us: it’s important to put it forward in the world of design. Kindness is a plus.’
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The winners of Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023 are unveiled in the February 2023 issue, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to Apple News+ subscribers. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in a new tab)