Curated by Mario Gagliardi, THE ELEMENTS IN DESIGN deals with the fascination of man with the elements of nature.
Aristotle explained the elements in terms of what we might call sensual qualities: hot, cold, wet and dry. His main thought was that all materials are manifestations of different compositions of the elements. This idea - that the world consists of underlying elements - was fundamental in several ways. It implies that the world is not what it outwardly seems: A stone is not just a stone - it is composed of a mixture of elements which we cannot see.
If the world consists of underlying elements, then materials could be transformed by changing their underlying composition. This idea of Aristotle was the great motivation for the early alchemists. The idea that man could interfere, that man could re-compose matter, was more revolutionary than it appears at a first glance: When man can make and re-make matter by changing its elements, then the world is not only for the gods to make and re-make. The world was no more just a playground for the gods in which man can only pray; Now the world could be changed by man.
Today’s nanomaterials are the result of a quest which began with Plato, and today’s quantum fluctuations might be what is going on in Plato’s first matter, the ‘aether’. The elements are the expression of the encounter of man with nature, and they are the fundament of Aristotle’s idea that man can create matter. Here is the beginning of a fundamental conflict: The conflict between nature and the artificial.