Four years ago, Luis Pons was farming and tending to his cows in Venezuela's Amazon jungle. Forced from the country due to political strife, these days the architect leads quite a different life as the principal owner and designer of his preeminent firm in Miami. Already well-known for his imaginative architecture, interiors, and objects, his latest foray is into jewelry. This week, his Magnetik Distractions, a piece based on a simple ball chain and a magnetized bearing, debuts in the online Moma Design Store (pictured right and after the jump). The mutable object (it can be a necklace, bracelet, anklet, belt, etc.) has the kind of inspiration engineered into it that makes it as much a compulsive plaything as elegant ornamentation. Combining these two elements – a sense of wonder and sleek aesthetics – defines Pons' work. It's this kind of uncomplicated interactivity that, as Pons puts it, "pretty much defines my philosophy. You become your own designer. We just provide the frame. It's a very simple concept."
Pons credits his imaginative design instincts to his daughter, who he calls, "my biggest creative inspiration," also citing the roles played by his father (who was an architect himself) and the beautiful objects that his mother, a gallerist, decorated with. "I have a Latin way of thinking," he explains, "you don't have a specialization, so you can do anything." His multi-disciplinary approach shows up in current projects like an inflatable 16th-century villa he's creating for Art Basel — part of a series of inflatable installations that are "all about how the outside is plastic and there's no content" — and a Miami private residence that uses a giant periscope to bring in the view. For Pons, design is more about a worldview, about observation and reactions, a sensibility he compares to the way children relate to their environment.
These principles – a focus on cause and effect, innate curiosity, and lightheartedness – are what Pons calls the universal elements of design. By approaching the process at the most basic level of how we relate to objects, Pons' work yields the same addictive thrill that comes from experiencing the way things work, seeing unexpected motion, and feeling unfamiliar tactile sensations – just like playing with toys as a young child. Stripped of the stuffiness, slickness, or decorative elements common among other designers, pieces like his Pinhead Door (made of plastic pins instead of the traditional metal that conform to the touch), furniture covered in readymade furniture moldings, and a future project that installs prefab houses into a warehouse, Pons' output communicates on a level that is at once accessible and sophisticated. Balancing less serious aspects with elegant materials and shapes parallels the way Latin and U.S. sensibilities play a hybrid role in Miami's burgeoning design scene."It's the best of two worlds," Pons explains, "it's Latin culture overlapped with American systems."
North meets South, kids meet grow-ups, stylish optimism, and classic pop, Luis Pons' work is the best kind of contradiction.