“It has a lot to do with beauty, with efficiency—the human being is in the middle of it all. Your hands, your eyes, your nose, your legs, your feet, your ass.” —Luigi Coani on Ergonomics.
America has always cast a wistful eye toward European style and aesthetics, bending like a plant to sunshine. This Euro-centric predisposition is rooted in the country’s beginning as a home for refugees from socio-political conflict and as a source of economic expansion.
In other words, it is akin to the knuckle tattoos which read ‘Love’ on the left and ‘Hate’ on the right.
It has been an odd paradox. While simultaneously breaking free politically and socially, Americans reveled in the movements emanating from the former homelands. Often we are handed back our own creations with an accented twist, like the Blues from the ‘British Invasion’ and Josephine Baker from France.
Our decor and architecture heralded to the European Gothic and Roman revival until Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson broke the molds and developed a truly American vocabulary.
Fashion and style remained exclusive and deeply seated in Paris and London until Eleanor Lambert boldly held the Franco-American show at the Versaille Palace in 1973.
Despite the rise of American-centric schools of thought and aesthetics, U.S. products retain a strong utilitarian core. Function is the form and style comes only as a final presentation.
American integration electronics, and those made for the U.S. market, with notable exceptions, have a standard ‘high end’ look. Regardless of the form factor, it is a combination of high gloss plastic with chrome like accents. It is the function that is on display.
European style can be described as having a purpose of stimulating the idea of a function while subduing it. The style and form working with functions was well on display at Integrated Systems Europe 2015.
On the show floor, light switches and controllers like Vitrum combined natural materials and hand crafted appearances with electronics to create flowing lines. Vitria showed minimalist pop art inspired interfaces that seemed both functional and useable.
The sheer sophistication of Fasttel’s intercom door stations make them hands down the most elegant in the category.
Sound systems simultaneously blend in with the decor and enhance it with subwoofer lighting fixtures from Tutondo and stunning ceramic sculpted speakers from NacSound. Fohhn Audio showed artfully minimalist speaker towers and Ohm showed off their hand crafted cabinets.
This essential oeuvre exhibited itself in the wide curving surfaces of the Crestron booth and the Concrete Abstract Minimalist 1960’s inspired Sony Booth.
Even the presentation theaters were designed to inspire and inform. The Residential Solutions Theater was bordered by sparse bamboo shoots and walls and furniture of varying shades of bright greens. In contrast the Unified Communications Theater was lush with black velveteen walls, gold Neo-Victorian frames and tree branch lattice inspired chairs.
What can a North American take away from being enveloped in a tech show where the senses were not assaulted by cacophony of competing soundtracks and visual disharmony?
Perhaps it is time we sip and linger on that just one espresso demitasse and make each meal a sit-down gathering (rather than in your car or while walking to next job). Our staff and clients might just be open to letting beauty and efficiency combine.