Marrying contemporary curves with traditional techniques and a fusion of digital fabrication places Ammar Kalo in a position where he wears various hats allowing him to bring his skills together in his design projects.
The catch-line for one of Ammar Kalo’s most recent design furniture collections the Carabus collection is: “Made in the UAE. Formed by Robots. Crafted by People.” as it uses robotically formed copper, camel leather and walnut wood to create a fusion of traditional craft and digital technology. The resulting furniture equally highlights both parts of the process and this achievement sums up Kalo’s interest in occupying a position where his practice oscillates between the digital and physical realms.
Running his eponymous design practice – KALO – from Dubai, his areas of research interest include developing design projects that utilise the links between materials, fabrication tools and form-making. He is currently the director of College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) Labs and an Assistant Professor at the American University of Sharjah. He is also a self-confessed multi-tasker.
“What excites me most is starting on a new project with new material and a new brief. I intentionally try to have at least three or four projects running at once because I like to jump between things, to reset and to let things feed into each other,” he says. Whether it is his teaching at the university, managing the material, fabrication and media CAAD labs, conducting academic research or working on a furniture design project, Kalo likes to constantly have new goals. The Carabus collection, consisting of a coffee table, stool, cabinet and mirror falls into his research with industrial sheet metal and robotics.
He also enjoys having the luxury of time on one-off commissions to really delve into specifics. Kalo has completed several commissions for Bee’ah, the UAE’s leading waste management company where he has integrated waste material into functional design objects. One of such projects titled After Pressure is a communal table made from aluminium extrusion bales compressed into bricks and was showcased as part of Dubai Design Week 2018, during which Kalo also curated and co-produced an exhibition of contemporary furniture designed and fabricated by AUS students. The show – ProtoPieces – was put together under Kalo’s supervision and included sketches, prototypes, and scale models.
Kalo also participated in the design research exhibition titled Madar taking place during Dubai Design Week 2019 at Downtown Design where he showcased the PVC Bench, which uses recycled parts of old PVC drainpipes to make the seating part of a two-person bench, with legs and a base-support made from off-cuts of walnut wood. The bench, like most of Kalo’s furniture, comes with simple joineries to give a smooth, organic feel that characterises his practice.
In fact, it is this aesthetic that earned Kalo a place in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, which acquired two pieces - Stratum and N-bowl - in 2016.
For the future, Kalo says he hopes to expand outside of the region and to gain more exposure whilst maintaining the same approach and straddling the bridge between the many arms of his practice and research interest.
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