Designer Anton Willis is known for projects that weave together culture, environment and nature, like his foldable kayak. One of a series of interviews brought to you by the Heineken Ideas Brewery.
PSFK recently spoke to Anton Willis, designer of the Oru Kayak and co-founder of the Civil Twilight design studio, about his interest in fusing design with elements city inhabitants often overlook. Inspired by Heineken’s new challenge to reinvent the Draught Beer Experience, PSFK.com has interviewed change-making creatives who are constantly reinventing the world around them. In Willis’s case, this means streetlights and the bodies of water encasing a city. Through his work, Willis hopes to encourage people to explore the nature that co-exists with the hustle & bustle of the city.
What inspired the design and construction of the Oru?
I started working on the Oru 3 years ago. I had moved into a studio apartment and had to put my kayak into long-term storage. I had read an article in the New Yorker about modern advances in origami and wanted to apply this idea to industrial design. The combination of these two things really inspired it.
You describe your projects as “based on curiosity rather than ideology.” Can you explain how your work engages with both the built environment and nature?
Civil Twilight, the design studio I co-founded has done a number of projects that explore culture, environment, and nature. With Oru for instance, it addressed personal ways of exploring nature in a very urban setting, the San Francisco Bay, and with that came curiosity. With the project Lunar Resonant Streetlights (lights that dim to save energy) the inspiration came not just from energy saving, but from connecting people in urban settings with the natural cycles of the moon.
How does your work reinvent practical products that can enhance modern life?
With the Lunar Resonant Streetlights it was about reinventing a product so ubiquitous that they have almost become invisible. You don’t notice them as objects, especially not as design objects. Everyone accepts them and doesn’t think twice about them. They become part of the passive background and we wanted to have a direct impact on experiencing the night.
With Kayak, it was about updating a product. The kayak is the oldest unchanged boat, its design has existed for several thousand years (even the plastic-molded ones). For me, it was about taking something with a very long, elegant lineage and adapting it to urban conditions, that involves flexibility rather than altering the basic form.
Are you interested in developing a range of foldable items? If so, what do you have in mind?
We’re open to the possibility so it’s still up in the air.
How does nature affect your design principles?
Depends on the project. For Streetlights, the design of the lights fixture incorporated the geometric shape that corresponds to the astronomical diagram of how the moon moves through the sky. With the Oru everything about its design is related to natural conditions and interacting with water. We took into account how it would explore its natural surroundings in nature and then used specific materials to complement that.
What are you working on now?
The Kayak. Talking to manufacturers for a launch in 2013.
About Heineken’s Challenge To Reinvent The Draught Beer Experience
In a rather audacious move, Heineken are asking people from certain countries around the world to come up with new ideas tied to the draught beer experience. Over at the Heineken Ideas Brewery site, creative minds can offer a new vision to the drinks company.
Heineken say that draught beer is enjoyed the world-over, but it has not changed much over the years and Heineken sees the potential to take inspiration from technological advances and the development of other industries to create an exciting new era in draught beer.
Submit your new draught experience concepts at Heineken Ideas Brewery.