Interview with Benjamin Hubert
Cosentino
Madrid, Spain
Cosentino interviews Benjamin Hubert, creative director of LAYER, a stratergic design agency from London. The designer has collaborated with Dekton, creating the installation Raytrace fir the Milan Design Week 2019.

How did this collaboration with Cosentino come to life?
Benjamin Hubert (BJ): Cosentino came to visit us, came to the studio to see our work, to see our process.  And then, we visited Cosentino to see the factory, to see the production, to see the materials, to see the process… And the meeting of our process and Cosentino’s process came to a conversation where we were talking about: How do we highlight the potential of Dekton®?

What was your initial vision for the collaboration?
BJ: The material that Cosentino produces is incredible. Dekton® is a result of a lot of pressure, short amount of time, a lot of natural materials, to create a very hard-wearing and highly compact material. And we saw this material and thought it could be used for architectural applications. Its size and gravitas should be exploited, and we liked the idea of a relationship to nature. So, thinking about the world around us, how nature interplays with architecture and particularly water. So, if you walk past a building next to water you get reflexions and caustics from water reflecting across the material, and what that does is it makes you look at the material with fresh eyes, and we liked the idea of taking this idea of water and architecture and creating an installation.

Following your visit at Cosentino’s factory, how did the making process of Dekton® further influence and inspire your vision for Raytrace?
BJ: What Cosentino is doing is pretty advanced, is pretty technological, and we like the idea to capture that. And the material is produced in a huge slab, so it created this idea of exploiting a canvas. Of taking a material, lots of different finishes of materials and creating a canvas to play with. And how light plays with that canvas became really important.

Connecting back to nature and the natural world is a big trend, how does your concept connect back to the natural elements?
BJ: As a designer you are always trying to capture some of the natural beauty around us. I think for this it was important to think about, first to think about Dekton® and its relationship to water. The fact that all the water is removed from the material in the process. And we thought it would be poetic and beautiful to bring back the water to the material. So really taking this idea of creating a droplet of water and thinking about the way light moves through it and how it plays on the surface, became the spark to think about how to bring nature back to the project.

How do you see the relationship between nature/natural architecture and the material of Dekton®?
BJ: When you walk through a city, may be Madrid, may be London, and you look at the buildings, what brings them to life is two things in my mind. One is what the material that the façade is made from, and two how does the light interplay with that material. And I think Dekton® has such huge potential and a great application for architecture that it became a very natural process and choice to think about really building the relationship between light and the material. The material pattern, the material texture, the material strength, the material size, and then really thinking about lights.  You know, people when they see sunlight into a building or the way they see light move through a swimming pool and see the bottom of it and the patterns, the way they see shadows interplay, it sparks the imagination, and imagination and excitement and delights are all the kinds of emotions we want to bring to this project.

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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano

How has your initial vision changed/ developed overtime and after experimentation?
BJ: One of the exciting things about working with Dekton® was how thin the material is. So where possible we are using material down to the smallest 4 mm. This material allows us to create shapes, to create more surprising relationships between shapes, and this material has really allowed us to do things we wouldn’t normally be able to do with a solid surface like a composite. So, I mean, Dekton® has opened opportunities for us.
What would you like visitors to experience and feel when entering the installation?
BJ: We are lucky enough to be creating this installation for Milan Design Week. As any visitor to Milan Design Week knows it’s a busy, quite chaotic, condensed week, where you don’t really have so much time, patience sometimes, and a vision for this installation is that it will be a moment for the ability to stop, to think, to reflect, to smile and just stay in one place for a little while, and think about something that is gentle, and reflective, and perhaps meditative, and something that brings out the emotions that are separate to the busy day to day of what it’s like to be in the Milan Furniture Fair.

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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano
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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano

You enhance the exploration and world of possibilities with Dekton®. How do you think it will impact the future of design?
BJ: Our passion with materials is something that goes beyond shape and styling it. It naturally has more substance. We think about the substance that projects are made from very early in our process. We are not stylists, we don’t just believe in shape and just creating a new form factor because that’s very contemporary. What we believe in is long lasting sustainable hard-wearing designs and inevitably and inherently Raytrace installation uses Dekton® which has all those characteristics. And for us if people can use a material that lasts 10, 20, 30, may be more years, than the things that are happening in the world at the moment, particularly with sustainability and the issue with natural resources, hard-wearing long-lasting designs and materials are fundamentally important.

Getting back to you … your work has been recognised by the world’s most prestigious design bodies. What is it that makes Layer and your design proposals stand out?
BJ: Layer is quite an unusual studio. Firstly we span the spectrum between the very soft lifestyle driven long lasting furniture oriented projects, but we also do the other end, that sort of harder and sometimes more complex into design, so strategy, really hard core industrial design, highly engineered projects, and this band-width and the tension it creates, leaves us in a very special place in the middle where you bring together the lifestyle qualities of a project and how people interact with products over a long period of time, but also the sensibilities of how to create a really intelligent product, so something that resonates with a brand and elevates a brand but also thinks about the world around the product. And Layer really is the epicentre of these two thought processes and it gives us the ability to think differently about creating new pieces of design.
 

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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano
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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano

At Cosentino we aim to inspire people through innovative spaces … in this context I’d like to ask you a last question related to inspiration.

For you what would be an inspiring space? 

BJ: An inspiring space is a memorable space. Inspiration can be very different, you hope that inspiration is interesting and delightful, but it doesn’t always have to be. I am really interested in making people feel something, and we have such complex emotions, that we can feel many different things. A successful piece of design, or a successful installation just makes you feel, and it makes you think, and it makes you remember that experience. And we know that the world is full of stuff, and there are many things we see every day, we see a lot online and often we don’t see things in reality and in the flesh, but when we do, we want, and I expect, really visceral feedback and visceral emotions and a strong sense of place, and that’s what we hope to achieve with Raytrace.

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© Miguel Fernández-Galiano

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