Q1: – fashion & architecture
You referred to in a previous interview to the notion, and we have been acquainted during our studies in Vienna often with the concept – that “Everything is Architecture” You understand and see a dress as a small architectural project which gives your design a unique approach. Where would you see three differences or similarities between a building in the conventional sense and a garment enclosing the body.
For me a garment is architecture in it’s smallest scale, the second skin around the body. In my design process I work with architectural design tools, both digital and physical processes. I construct a garment in 3D with computational design techniques and use digital fabrication to realize it, similar how I work during a building design process. I think about the structure and performance of material and functionality. This unique design process is influenced by my expertise in 3D design and spatial understanding. Aesthetics, color, rhythm and pattern and proportion are important in any design process of all scales. The differences are in the scale of course. 3D printing technologies have advanced over the past 15 years quite a bit, however the high resolution and fine details can yet only be realized on a small scale. For example I can see this in the Venus Dress and Setae Jacket. I find it enticing to test ideas on a small scale which I imagine will one day be possible to realize on a building scale. Designing a building you have to think about construction, structural performance and exposure to the environment these might appear as differences, but for me they are also topics to think about in fashion design, it is just a matter of scale.
Q2: – 3D printed architecture
As an expert in the field, i am curious to hear your opinion on where you see a potential or maybe also a change of the profession of architects if 3D printed technology will enter an architectural scale and be used to produce spaces and not objects. We see this increasingly happening quite successfully within industrial and also academic research, quite recently a pedestrian bridge has been installed in Amsterdam – and also some results on a commercial level for domestic environments are happening. Is a 3D printed house an enlightenment or a hazard for the profession of architects? What will need to change in the way we work and design?
Personally I find it exciting to see the developments of 3D printing on a larger scale. I remember vividly around 2008 when I was working with Ross Lovegrove in London, we experienced to see for the first time large scale 3D printing with Enrico Dini’s cement structures. Seeing over the years the various architects exploring the technology on a larger scale was always exciting for me, though often I felt the designs were lacking the full potential of what the technology can offer. Often I see the building industry default into tectonic thinking of traditional construction methods, which is entirely different from how additive technology works, therefore I can understand that some people find it a hazard if not utilized in the right way. The potential I see for the implementation of this technology is when we start thinking about on-site construction and utilizing local materials. 3D printing with earth or plant-based materials and designing intelligent structures which are inspired by nature. Material efficiency – geometries and structures which do not need support material during printing process, therefore only using as much material needed for the construction. Reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint – the material can be processed on location and does not need to be shipped around the globe or even working with recycled materials. These are just some of the aspects which show the potential of this building technique.
Q3: – 3D printing and beyond
I would also be curious to know about the cutting edge of 3D printing technology and what is currently experimental and exciting for you? Related to the first part of the question where do you think 3D printing will or could play an essential role in our daily habits and rituals in the near future? It s understandable that it will progress in industrial production or medical research for example as a supported essential necessity – but on a domestic, daily ritual scale, beyond fashion which is growing so fast – what would be your opinion on future availability and application of this technology for the general public?
The domestication of the technology is exciting, today desktop 3D printers are affordable and many households have them at home already. They are easy to handle and online you can download many 3D files to print. Certainly one does not need to be an expert any longer to utilize the technology at home. However when it comes to designing home décor objects, accessories, fashion items etc. people will always turn to their favorite designer and seek out to buy designs either in digital or physical format. What we do at JK3D we focus on designing objects for everyday use. Planter pots, vases, trays, coffee tables, pedestals, champagne coolers, handbags, etc. What is experimental and exciting about this is that we can produce all products in-house in our ateliers in Vienna and Los Angeles. We are independent from third party manufacturers. Therefore we can produce much faster and at low quantity, only by demand and by order. This local production enables us to continue and optimize the design process of each product and stay up to date with technologies, materials and trends. The Lamella Series, HY Clutch and Kelp Mini are just some of our products which are produced in this way. Very quickly we can adapt colors, personalize products and change material palette. This is new and there isn’t any other brand doing what we are doing at the moment across two continents.
Q4: – methods and tools
Computational design has foregrounded the accessibility to technological innovation. We have learned a few tools in our education to design dinosaurs and buildings. I am curious how you observe and make use of the ever expanding digital toolsets available to design professions? Whats has changed in your own work as with the use of digital tools? Will the emergence of AI, and its derivates like Mid Journey, and coming new design tools which alter the role of the designer to some extent – influence in your opinion your own engagement? Where does this journey go?
Personally I have developed a digital toolset over the years which mixes many different techniques. I work with photography and photogrammetry of natural artefacts, 3D scanning of bodies and spaces and various computational techniques. 3D modelling and generative design techniques are part of our everyday work. With my team at JK3D our tool palette has expanded over the years and everyone brings on new techniques. Emma Sanson, Oliver Hamedinger, Naomi Neururer and Mariana Tanova they all bring their own unique design processes with them and together we collaborate on pretty amazing projects. I am quite intrigued by Houdini and it’s capacity of generative algorithms and how quickly you can develop cutting-edge designs. Personally, I have tried working with AI such as Mid Journey but I though it was too much relying on internal databases and quickly everything looked the same so, what I added as a text prompt would look like other people’s designs and not contain my own personal digital aesthetics, which I think is quite unique. I think I would like to explore an AI which is based on my own design aesthetics, like a personal “JK AI”
Q5: – entrepreneurship
You have collaborated and worked with some of the most iconic and important designers and design houses – and recently have established your own design brand JK3D (https://jk3d.com/) with a set of amazing products. I observe also within the generation of students today a desire to be entrepreneurial and commercially successful. How important is the development of entrepreneurial skills and how does it alter the way you think and design? Whats your approach to customers and current trends?
Entrepreneurial design thinking is core of our JK3D DNA. I founded JK3D with my partner Kais Al-Rawi in 2020 to have a commercial brand within JK Design. Our cutting-edge designs are housed at permanent collections in museums across the world and at the same time one can purchase the pieces. This is rare that designs are as accessible that everyone can own a museum piece. Our goal is to make 3D printed luxury products more accessible and make it a trend to rethink urban manufacturing. The next generation certainly engages with this idea and especially because we foreground the development of a sustainable brand.
Q6: – research
You often say that nature is an inspiration for your designs and you study found patterns in sea creatures and plants. We also see an ethnical and cultural contextual approach within the crown for queen Ramoda you co designed with Ruth Carter found in Zulu culture. How important is research in your work versus intuition and ideas and a more top down approach, when you start a new design task or a project? How do you balance these forces?
I see the work I do a combination of both, quick designs based on inspirations from drawings and images as well as long term research into a specific subject matter. As part of of my professorship at UCLA I am engaging in architectural research. Here I researched various 3D printing techniques with porcelain and clay as well as robotic timber assembly and digital fabrication with composites. Furthermore I often engage in research with other brands with cutting edge technologies they are developing, for example I have been working with Swarovski over the past 5 years on experimenting with their new 3D printing technology with glass. Last September we showcased the Crystal Lamellas at the Italian Glass Weeks in Venice. Furthermore with Stratasys on their technology printing directly on fabrics in multicolor we realized the Spoorophyte Collection together in 2015 and later the Setae Jacket in 2019. Within these projects I often research natural systems, mathematical geometries, materials, structures and speculative concepts. Such as for example in the 9 months research project RE-Fream a horizon 2020 funded research project, in which we developed with various technology partners the Arid Dress. The projects I realized for Haute Couture and Hollywood, often fund my research but I do not necessarily have the time in these project to develop research, perhaps rather apply it and test it on a real case scenario.
Q7: – academia
How do you involve your professional work and research and the use of 3D printing into your academic work. I am particularly interested in this since within architectural education the 3D printer has become widely democratized and accessible, i see them sitting on most of the desktops. So how do you challenge additive manufacturing and the technology?
I make it an assignment in almost all of my classes, wether seminars or design studios. In the Architectural Mediation Course series (former introduction to computational design) seminar I teach the first year graduate students digital drawing, 3D modeling and 3D printing with FDM technique. In the building construction seminar, the students 3D print chunk models of construction models. In the yearlong research studio I am currently teaching we are researching the application of 3D printed sustainable façade systems. These façade systems are meant to perform as a jacket for a building. As temperatures are changing due to climate change some buildings have to adapt and different seasons might require different retro fits or clip on systems. We are inspired by Gottfried Semper’s Bekleidungsprinzipien in this studio and therefore made a study trip to Vienna in January. We visited all the Otto Wagner buildings and studied the nature inspired ornaments in facades and baroque churches.
Q8: – phygital worlds
We see a rapid development in the connection of developing digital worlds with our physical world. This has started out with communication and social media channels and finds its pinnacle today in the Metaverse and other digital worlds. In your work i assume there is a strong presence of translation from digital design to physical objects. What do you think about the notion of these boarders between physical and digital being blurred.
Although we design everything digitally, I am a very haptic person and making these digital projects tangible is important to my work. The tangibility makes the design accessible, touchable, understandable. The beauty of the work often is within the material transformation and the translation from physical to digital. Sometimes a loss of information occurs, which I find a fascinating effect. This is also what originally got me so interested in the technology in 2005, in my first year at the University of Applied Arts. Back then the university had their first 3D printer and I thought it was exciting to “just press print” however quickly figured out there is more to it then simply pressing a button and that pending on the different technologies different effects and aesthetics can be achieved. You can see this in the models I created for the diploma project Super Human Enticement.
Q9: – metaverse and fashion
It is also important to mention obviously that there is a whole economy operating successfully (brands) in these new worlds. How do you see these developments, especially in fashion – and would you be interested in designing fashion for digital avatars?
Indeed, we have been working on such a project for the past two years almost with an international fashion brand, the project will be made public in the coming months. The topic is fascinating though I am disappointment about the technical limitations in the Metaverse. Many of the designs we create simply do not work at a low resolution environment, I am personally, therefore, more interested Metahumans and in CGI and what’s possible there.
Julia Koerner is an award-winning Austrian designer working at the convergence of architecture, product and fashion design, specialised in 3D-printing. She is the founder of JK Design GmbH and faculty member of UCLA. Her recent collaborations include 3D-printed Haute Couture and costumes for Marvel´s Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther”. In 2021 she launched her brand JK3D together with her partner Kais Al-Rawi, which is focused on 3D printed fashion accessories, products and home décor.