Unique aesthetics: Julia Koerner on her architectural and fashion design applications of 3D printing

“For me, the most important thing is that I make something that feels unique, so it has a unique aesthetic built in, something innovative and new, that’s different from anything we’ve seen before.”

The standards were set more than six years ago. Julia Koerner based JK design in 2015 in Austria, with a new brand, J.K. 3D, created last year with partner Kais Al-Rawi. During this period, Koerner found success in architecture, fashion design, and product design, building on his specialties that span 3D printing, robotic technologies, and computer design.

His name has appeared in this post before, having produced 3D printed clothing and accessories for Marvel’s 2018 film Black Panther, while a fashion collaboration with Stratasys and Ganit Goldstein has also filled the columns of numerous publications. 3D printing in 2020.

Last spring, Koerner reached another professional milestone. Tasked with developing two fine art sculptures up to six feet tall, which would go on public display in Santa Monica, California later that year, she was embarking on her first-ever public art venture.

But due to unforeseen circumstances (a global pandemic, you may have heard of it), things didn’t go exactly as planned on his “3D Stelae” project.

The plan at one point was to outsource production of the Stelae 3D sculptures to a service provider that operated large format 3D printing systems. The costs deemed prohibitive, Koerner then explored CNC milling, a little more affordable. But by the time she was ready to place her orders with a digital fabrication shop suited to her needs, they were all closing due to COVID-19 restrictions or overwhelmed by demand for face shields and other apps related to Covid.

At this point, the deadline was only a few months away, with the first 3D Stelae installation scheduled for July 2020. The only way forward was to look to in-house fused deposition modeling platforms (FDM) from JK Design, 3D printing the two sculptures in four to six sections measuring approximately one meter high and 30 x 30 cm in diameter.

“We started printing it and it worked without adapting the geometry much,” Koerner said. TCT. “It was so fascinating because all of a sudden we were able to print these large 1.5 millimeter thick sections without any support material, so it’s super light and the material can withstand outside environmental forces. , like the sun and the heat.

“We started producing this in our studio, and it was groundbreaking because I realized what we could do in-house and how we can make our own products with very limited resources.”

Koerner first came into contact with 3D printing at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in 2005 and maintained an interest while passing through the Architectural Association (AA) in London. Here she not only met Al-Rawi, but also became involved in AA’s Visiting Schools program.

This program took Koerner and Al-Rawi to the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, reputed to be the closest terrestrial environment to that found on Mars. While there, Koerner spent much time in the Nabataean city of Petra, which was once a thriving trading center carved into the sandstone cliffs by the Nabataeans in the 2nd century AD. Over time, the carved stone columns of Petra were eroded, but would serve as Koerner’s inspiration for a project titled Columns to Crowns.

“We looked at this change over time and we developed 25 columns that represent this change in a series,” says Koerner. “With 3D printing, you can produce one-of-a-kind custom items, you can customize, you can customize, and the idea was to showcase those physiques in physical form.”

Columns to Crowns was exhibited at Amman Design Week in 2019, with the work being done between 2014 and 2018 and the pieces being created with 3D printed PLA and acrylic tubing. It was this work that would later lead Koerner to the Stelae 3D sculptures, advancing the research that came to Jordan and returning once again to 3D printing technology.

For Koerner, 3D printing is a way to push the boundaries of his creativity, reinterpret the way we typically think of products, and create distinctive pieces with unique geometries and aesthetics. It all goes back to his time at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

“My thesis was on superhuman seduction. I was inspired by the anatomy of the human body, biological morphologies, growth systems and the abstraction of mathematical logics, what you would find in nature in geometries, which can only be 3D printed” , explains Koerner. “There was a certain fascination that took hold where no other manufacturing technique would be able to do so.”

Fifteen years after finishing his studies, and with his brands JK Design and JK 3D making good progress, Koerner divides his time between California and Austria. During a notable return to her homeland, Koerner was invited to Swarovski’s headquarters, located amidst a mountainous landscape in Wattens. The glass company had requested not only a keynote presentation from Koerner, but also that it contribute an element of its research and development on 3D printing on glass. “They wanted me to challenge them; how would the designers’ thought process push the technology in a certain direction,” says Koerner.

Alongside a Swarovski design team, she leveraged the ability of 3D printing to produce different variations of a part using the same algorithm in the same build process. This idea manifested in a JK Design project titled Crystal Glaciers, a series of 24 custom glass spirals inspired by the topology of the mountains surrounding Swarovski’s headquarters.

“With Crystal Glaciers, we wanted to show that through a series of these [glass spirals] there is a change in size and scale, intensity and appearance,” says Koerner. “I think that had a big impact on how they develop the technology going forward.”

As a native of Austria, working with Swarovski and gaining the trust of the company as an external designer was a defining moment in my career and one that represented a significant change. After years of working with polymer 3D printing, there were new size limits to master when printing on glass. She also had to adapt to a slower feedback loop because she wasn’t too familiar with the glass printing technology that Swarovski had kept secret until now.

Crystal Glaciers was a project that primarily aimed to represent Swarovski’s continuous spirit of innovation, but it also succeeded in highlighting Koerner’s ambition. His most recent work has seen a return to more conventional 3D printing techniques, but another step forward in inspiration.

Made with locally sourced plant materials, the HY CLUTCH bag features an integrated clasp closure, partial opening hinge and interior pocket, all 3D printed. Available in black, off-white and transparent, HY CLUTCH products are manufactured on-site, on-demand within a day, before being distributed in recyclable vacuum-formed plastic packaging.

While meeting a prerequisite for sustainability, it also meets Koerner’s need for originality and innovation. Featuring intricate and intricate organic shapes that resemble the structures of natural hymenium lamellae found on certain species of fungi, the HY CLUTCH bag won the Red Dot Design Award for 2021 and was shortlisted for the 2021 Product Design and Wearable Award of Dezeen.

It’s bold, it’s distinct and it fits the brief.

“We are delighted,” concludes Koerner. “I see a lot of future opportunities with this product. There is no similar product currently on the market. It’s something really unique and cutting edge.


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Joseph E. Golightly