Design Days Dubai caught up with Ammar Kalo, the founder of UAE-based architecture and design studio KALO.
KALO presents work that mostly interrogates the relationship between digital technology and traditional craft. Using production techniques that blend conventional material process with advanced digital fabrication methods, designer and architect Ammar Kalo produces pieces that are both unique and functional.
Design Days Dubai: Can you give a background of your brand KALO and how it began?
Ammar Kalo: KALO is really just a platform for exploration and the interrogation of relationships between digital technology and traditional craft. It started out as a personal project, making random things for my apartment, bowls, lamps, chairs, consoles or anything I needed at the time. Soon my friends and colleagues showed interest in the work and would encourage me to share with others. It’s a one man show at the moment, but hopefully at some point in the future it will grow into something more substantial. Although staying small like this really offers me great flexibility and chance to get hands-on with all the projects.
Design Days Dubai: How did the idea for the Stratum come about?
Ammar Kalo: The Stratum chair was born out of a desire to create a piece of furniture that expresses its function and the material it uses in a very organic fashion, while taking advantage of advanced CNC milling and fabrication technologies. Inspiration for the interlocking connection joint came from studying religious book stands that are carved from a single piece of wood and feature two interlocking parts. Its unique formal and visual qualities are born out of the ways in which plywood laminations are carved to highlight the chair's functional features as its termination at the ground with three legs also accentuate the design's edginess and give it a sense of delicate balance.
Design Days Dubai: Can you talk us through the production process for Stratum? How long does it take? Where are they made?
Ammar Kalo: After the first design sketches, I spent quite a bit of time modeling the chair in 3D and refining it into its current form. Once the model was done, it was divided into pieces for machining. Production wise, each chair takes about 10 days to complete. The first prototype was completely designed, fabricated and assembled by myself, however the made-to-order units are done in collaboration with local fabrication facilities in Dubai. The design is constantly being refined with every new production batch.
Design Days Dubai: Take us through the story of how/what inspires you and your design process?
Ammar Kalo: I’m very interested in organic textures and ways of manipulating materials, so more often than not, the idea for a new design piece emerges from small material experiments that I find myself doing every now and then. In my design process I tend to start with smaller components details before I completely figure out what the overall objective is. Sometimes it simply starts as desire to explore working with a certain material with no preconceptions, and let the process grow with an exciting sense of discovery. There would often be pages and pages of sketches that would interpret an idea that I’m trying to develop, but they’d also be wildly varied and eclectic. As the process moves along, I would latch on to one or two of those ideas and start fleshing them out more rigorously. In the end I would spend an equal amount of time honing the formal language and connection strategies of the final product.
Design Days Dubai: Why did you decide to exhibit at Design Days Dubai? What are you most looking forward to?
Ammar Kalo: I’ve been toying around for a while with the idea of expanding the Stratum series, and Design Days Dubai seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so and get to showcase how the concept has developed. The new furniture pieces that will be displayed take both aesthetic and formal cues from Stratum and reworked to suit the needs of each piece accordingly, so I’m really excited to be sharing them in a few weeks.
Receiving Harper's Bazaar Interiors’ Emerging Designer award in 2015 was also positive pressure to exhibit some of the things I’ve been working on. Design Days has become a great venue for regional designers and talents to meet under one roof and display their unique and varied work. There are a number of great designers and galleries that I follow closely who will be also exhibiting at the fair this year and I’m most looking forward to see what new products they’ll be displaying.