A Matter of Materials: The Holon Mediatheque

The Design Museum Holon is amazing and everything, but its neighbor, the Holon Mediatheque is a lesser known gem which houses the Materials Library. Karen Burshtein visits with the director of the library, Shira Shoval, and finds out just exactly what a neptune ball is and how to print 3-D porcelain

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10 ביוני 2014

Since its highly-anticipated opening in 2010, the Design Museum of Holon has become an international sensation. Designed by Israeli-born industrial architect and artist Ron Arad, the acclaimed museum is as well known for its landmark curved Corten steel exterior, as it is for the innovative exhibits found inside. Next to it is a building that is rather less comely: The Holon Mediatheque, a post-modern mishmash of circular windows, porticos and needless columns.

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Being design snobs, we are normally ones to judge a book by its cover, but in this case we won’t: The Mediatheque houses several of the first-rate cultural institutions Holon has implemented in its determination to transform its identity from suburban backwater to must-stop on Israel’s cultural circuit. (Indeed, in the past 20 years, the municipality has also built a children’s museum, a cartoon museum, in addition to, of course, the Design Museum.) The Mediatheque itself houses a cinematheque, a theatre, and what might be one of Israeli design’s most fascinating and unsung gems: The Materials Library.

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The Library showcases over a thousand samples of the world’s most cutting-edge materials, from all branches of industry. These include the very latest in plastics, wood, ceramics, paper, metal, composites, textiles and biodegradable products, all of which have commercial objectives. Here is the place to look and touch (but not too hard) at repurposed Icelandic fish skin or material that is literally as light as air. Every color, texture and shape is on display. The space looks something like a kindergarten class on steroids. You could say material libraries are the meeting point between science and design. Holon’s is one of a handful in the world but it is unique in that it is open to the public, as well as industry professionals and design students. It’s actually officially part of the neighboring Design Museum. (An entrance ticket gives admission to both.) It’s a logical extension of the Design Museum since the Museum uses many innovative and unique materials in all of its exhibits from its many contributors. Uncovering new samples every month, the Materials Library director Shira Shoval says hers is a tough job to become blasé about. On a recent visit she shared her enthusiasm, telling us about 10 of her favorite new arrivals and her thoughts on what’s cool about each.
The Materials Library (joint admission with the Design Museum of Holon) NIS 60. Holon Mediatheque 6 Golda Meir St, Holon 

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3-D Printed Ceramics

"Did you ever think you could print 3-D porcelain? These guys (Studio Under’s Eran Gal-Or, Omer Merzel and Liat Akerman) are industrial design graduates of HIT (Holon Institute of Technology). They designed ceramic objects with the aid of a special printer they made.” The materials they use for printing range from local clay to Chinese porcelain, and ceramic materials with advanced properties.

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Aerogel

This is an open-celled, porous, solid foam derived from gel; the liquid component has been replaced with a gas, with the result of a solid. “This material was developed for NASA. It’s the lightest material ever. It’s like holding fog. It's also a new dilemma for the library: We want people to touch and feel the objects, but we have to protect them at the same time.”

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Luccon

This is made from transclucent, fine-grained concrete and translucent synthetic fibers. Thismaterial is cast layer-by-layer in prefabricated molds. “This is really groundbreaking. When you look at it flat, it looks like concrete. But when you hold it up to the light source you see through it. The combination of two age old materials together is giving way to a revolution. It’s a great example of material innovation. It’s a completely changed property.”

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ChroMyx

These are temperature sensitive, color-changing, flexible sheets. ChroMyx changes occur when certain temperatures are reached, and revert back to the original color once the temperature is reduced again. “This is an example of an ever-growing trend of materials that react to their environment, that can be impacted by the user and therefore implemented in specific product designs or even lead to new features in a product.”

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Foldtex

This is a folding surface, made out of two layers. The first is a flexible tear-proof layer, and the second is a 1 to 3 mm thick stiff substrat. The material can be folded but also customized with visual effects by adding individual surface layers. “This is really cool, a good example of how design can impact materials and how, on the other hand, materials are created and altered because of the design. It’s wood but because it’s been cut in a certain way it’s now foldable. It’s totally changed the wood material.”

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Lumi

A photographic print process for textiles and natural materials, the process is based on Inkodye, water-based dyes, which develop their color in sunlight. The color becomes permanent and doesn’t fade. “You brush ink on textile, put the image on top, take it out to sunlight. The UV rays cause it to leave a print. It turns out different according to the UV light. In Canada, for example, where there is less sunlight, it will be a different kind of photograph than if it was printed in Israel. It’s a really easy way to print on textile.”

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Opitchroic Glass

This is laminated safety glass made of a fibrous dichroic interlayer laminated between two pieces of low-iron glass. “This is “magic” glass that changes color with every angle…It’s part of our search for dynamic materials that react to their environment and to people.”

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Neptune Balls

Originally seaweed called “Posidonia Oceanica”, Neptune Balls are actually ocean waste and tangled seaweed fibers washed to the shore. As they contain hardly any salts and no proteins, they don’t rot and the fibers are not harmful to the human organism. They can be used without additives as an insulating material with natural fire prevention properties. “This is an exciting material made by nature and the fibers are actually “felted” by the waves to form a perfect shape.”

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Sugru

A self-setting rubber that can be formed easily by hand, it molds like play-dough, and bonds to almost anything: aluminum, steel, ceramics, glass, wood, many fabrics and plastics – turning into a strong, flexible silicone rubber at room temperature overnight. “This DIY material allows everyone to be a designer. Easy to work with, no equipment necessary, and anyone can use it to repair or change an object.”

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Ecovative

This material is grown from agricultural byproducts and mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells. It takes 5–7 days for the mycelium to digest the agricultural byproducts…binding them into a structural material. “It’s the next step in materials and design: how can we “grow” a material specific to our needs, in the exact shape of the final product. No waste, 100% recyclable. It’s specifically for packaging but the idea will definitely be seen in other future materials.”

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