NAGAMI DESIGN, crossing borders beyond imagination

(Robotica TM by Ross Lovegrove ©Nagami Design)

(Peeler by Daniel Widrig ©Daniel Widrig)

Many know Ávila as small medieval town in the west of Spain known the world over for its iconic Romanesque walls. Now, Ávila will also go down in history as being home to  Nagami Design, a design brand that explores the future of product design in a new technological era, founded in 2016 when architects Miki Jiménez García and Ignacio Viguera Ochoa joined forces with architect Manuel Jiménez García.

The trio got together mainly for the development of VoxelChair v1.0, commissioned by the Centre Pompidou for the exhibition Imprimer le Monde, they told us over email. VoxelChair v1.0 became part of the Centre Pompidou’s permanent collection upon completion of the exhibition, and since then Nagami has collaborated with internationally renowned designers, artists and architects, such as Davide Quayola, Zaha Hadid Architects, Ross Lovegrove, and Daniel Widrig. Nagami Design aims to explore new and sustainable territories, bridging imagination and creation. Their practice involves the  conception and development of software that will bring to life works of 3D printing, computational design, and robotic manufacturing.

Nagami Design made its debut during Milan Design Week 2018 with the presentation of four chairs: Bow and Rise by Zaha Hadid Architects, Robotica TM by Ross Lovegrove, and Peeler by Daniel Widrig. These chairs are the result of extensive research into material experimentation and fabrication. Bow and Rise was printed with PLA plastic, a biodegradable material derived from renewable sources such as corn-starch. The design of  Robotica TM mimics the natural programming or development found in nature, while Peeler was designed to satisfy the ergonomic requirements of the human body, and was manufactured via a process which minimised by-product waste.

Aside from the aforementioned chairs, Nagami Design has also created an oversized prototype for Canaria Ltd, as part of the 2016 NASA Space Apps Challenge. When looking to the future, Nagami told us that they that they are expanding their facilities, but keeping the core of the company focusing on researching about new printing methods. “From extruding materials at impossible angles, to [creating] colour gradients that were unachievable before, these [chairs] reflect our passion for technology and design, as well as our constant search for new challenges to create objects that we’ve never seen before.”

Words by Lula Criado (Twitter @Lula_Clotmag)

(Bow by Zaha Hadid Architects ©Zaha Hadid Architects)

(Rise by Zaha Hadid Architects ©Zaha Hadid Architects)

For those that are not familiar with Nagami, who is behind the studio and what led you to found Nagami?

Nagami is a Design brand and robotic manufacturing start-up based in Avila, Spain. The company was created in 2016 mainly for the development of VoxelChair v1.0, commissioned by the Centre Pompidou for the exhibition “Imprimer le Monde”, which took place in Paris in March 2017.

Marie-Ange Brayer and Olivier Zeitoun, curators of the exhibition, approached the Architects Manuel Jimenez Garcia and Gilles Retsin (co-directors of Design Computation Lab at UCL – The Bartlett School of Architecture) to develop a new prototype of their robotic spatial 3D printing method. Miki Jimenez Garcia and Ignacio Viguera, trained Architects in Spain, had already started a digital prototyping company and decided to join forces with Manuel in funding a robotic manufacturing startup to support the fabrication of the prototype for the Centre Pompidou. The company’s short-term goal was to develop a more robust and efficient robotic extrusion method. In the long term, Nagami would start to use this method to build their own 3D printed furniture and medium-scale Architectural products.

VoxelChair v1.0 became part of the museum’s permanent collection at the completion of the exhibition, and Manuel, Miki, and Ignacio continued developing the technology and started creating their products, specially designed for their manufacturing method. Estrat Chair, Nital Vase, and Nobu Chair are the first furniture pieces produced by the company. Nagami also participated in projects collaborating with other companies, such as Canaria, with a project supported by Nasa Extreme Tech Challenge.

Nagami presented a pioneering project at Milan Design Week 2018, combining computational design and large-scale robotic 3D printing — Brave New World: Re-thinking Design in the New Age of Technology. It will be officially launched with the presentation of four chairs made in collaboration with Zaha Hadid Architects, Ross Lovegrove, and  Daniel Widrig. Could you tell us more about these innovative collaborations?

After testing our technology with our products, we wanted to open this method to those who could challenge it and develop new ideas around 3D printing in large scale. We’ve known the three designers involved in this project for a long time. We have shared discussions, lectures and other events, mainly linked to the London Architecture and Design scene.

For Milan Design Week, it was important for us to work with people that we trust and admire. The three designers in the show always deliver high-quality design and innovation in every project, and they share our love for design and the attention to every detail. This technology suits their formal expression, as well as their design sensibility suits our passion for products that couldn’t have come to live with traditional manufacturing methods. Ross Lovegrove, Patrik Schumacher, and Daniel Widrig have been excited about the project from the beginning, and they have delivered not only high quality designed objects, but also a high commitment to the project and constant support to the company. Their involvement in the event goes beyond this project, and we are excited to create more products together after Milan.

What were the most significant challenges you faced during the development of these pieces?

The entire project has been a challenge from the beginning. The company is built on the idea of bringing to life objects that couldn’t exist before, and building the impossible requires hard work and commitment, coupled with a passion for design that does not allow you to stop trying when everything seems unachievable. We have been involved in digital fabrication and robotics for the last five years, developing research projects in workshops and exhibitions. Academic and artistic projects are an excellent platform to test out innovative methods, but evolving those methods towards commercially feasible products is a real challenge.

3D printing allows reducing the production chain, allowing designers to materialise their prototypes quickly, without tedious fabrication of parts, shipping, and complicated assemblies. However, the use of this technology is mostly limited to the production of small-scale objects. Desktop 3D printers are slow and expensive in relation to the volume that they can print. These are some of the reasons why large-scale 3D printing usually is just present in exhibitions and luxury objects.

Nagami’s founders’ goal was to bring the formal freedom of 3D printing to a larger public. This required to develop an efficient technology that could reduce manufacturing cost, as well as speed up the printing process without compromising design quality. We are developing limited editions such as Zaha Hadid Architects’ Bow and Rise chairs, and those establish new arenas for innovation that are then applied to more products. However, we are also offering products that are accessible to a much larger group of design lovers. Some of our products are faster and cheaper to print than the 1/6 scaled version of the same piece printed in a desktop 3D printer. This opens up new frontiers for product design, were largely distributed 3D printing objects can become a reality.

Each one of the pieces on the show has intense research behind. Together with the designers, we’ve developed custom methods for manufacturing these chairs at high quality. From extruding materials at impossible angles, to create colour gradients that were unachievable before, these products reflect our passion for technology and design, as well as our constant search for new challenges to create objects that we’ve never seen before. It is common to think that digital manufacturing offers the possibility to materialise without much effort, but that is far from the truth. We have produced an endless amount of prototypes until we managed to achieve the desired quality of these products, each of them has been very carefully crafted both digitally and physically.

Research and innovation are at the core of Nagami’s projects, which are developed in collaboration with renowned architects, designers and artists. What do you think are the top trends (or innovations) that might reshape the future?

We believe that construction will become one of the next areas of innovation, mainly at the scale of Architecture. The low productivity of the construction industry and its slow evolution rate is anticipating a radical change in design-related disciplines. A coming construction revolution has indeed been already anticipated in different media, situating construction as the next industry to be automated. It just does not make sense that we are building the same way as 50 years ago, which situates construction as a huge area for innovation and application of new technologies.

Architects and designers are starting to take automation as one of the main drivers when designing objects of various scales, from furniture to Architecture. Digital manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, are indeed contributing to creating more sustainable and safer environments. We think that the times when construction required a large variety of pieces made by multiple manufacturers, later shipped on site for complicated assemblies, putting workers in unsafe situations, are very soon coming to an end. These technologies will as well contribute to the much more efficient use of materials, avoiding the necessity of formwork and scaffold. This will lead to a considerable reduction of waste.

What directions do you imagine taking Nagami’s work in?

On the one hand, we are starting a phase of increasing productivity, after the long phase of product development to get the first edition of our pieces ready for Milan. On the other hand, we can’t stop innovating in our products, and we are already planning new research threads for new collections.

This will include pieces printed by two/three robots simultaneously, which will allow materialising geometries that were previously unachievable. We are expanding our facilities, but keeping the core of the company focusing on researching about new printing methods, aiming to not only create incredible design products but also work on larger scale projects, such as 3d printed architectural scale products.

What is your chief challenge of creativity?

Building the unseen without making it inaccessible.

You couldn’t live without…

Apart from chocolate… We couldn’t live without each other. Nagami’s team is assembled based on trust and passion about design, and this initiative will never work without each of us giving all our energy to it.

(All photos courtesy of Nagami)
30 May 2018