Interview: A Vision of “Earth 2100” from ATRA Studios

The Mexican-Swedish firm on designing for the future

Design as a practice and designers themselves center on solving a problem, but at this year’s DesignMiami/ we saw fully fledged visions of the future—from a metallic bed by Tom Dixon to Grand Seiko‘s rumination on the flow of time through nature. With the unprecedented pace at which we are traveling as a society, the future continues to serve as a source of inspiration. One of the most comprehensive, captivating installations we saw across the entirety of Miami Art Week was through ATRA Studios, a Mexican-Swedish design firm that was showing at DesignMiami/. We spoke with the studio’s creative director, Alexander Diaz Andersson to learn about his vision of life in the future.

You are presenting “Earth 2100.” What does that mean? Can you tell us a little bit more about your vision for this future?

We imagined creating a moment in the future where we played our cards right, where everything kind of got solved, looking at how technology is evolving today; how the blockchain and how crypto are working, how intellectual property is working and senses of ownership are working. It is like a spin-off of how these kinds of economic systems that are being put in place today can create certain economies and then in the future create a world where we’re not so much focused on work for the monetary aspects, but work more in a humanitarian aspect. I think when that happens, we believe it is going to create this nomadic sense of living and exploration.

Tell me more about the nomadic sense of living. That was a big theme in the concept you presented. 

In this particular concept, this room is a living room of a pod that we’re imagining. This is a project we’re designing to its completion—this is just the first one we finished. This “pod” is something that’s not restrained by geographical restrictions and location, but rather is something that moves around—where one day you live in the desert or another one in a metropolitan city and then you can go elsewhere. It’s like this futuristic, very sci-fi utopian view of living.

The lines and some of the colors, where are they derived from? How did you settle on this color scheme, this mood? It’s very calming.

I think that was my number one goal. We started playing around with this palette around 16 or 17 months ago, mostly during COVID. I think it was something that was a reflection of the moment we were living and trying to find peace and find a space that can generate a sense of relaxation and peace of mind.

The early days of the pandemic influenced this design?

Yeah, the ideas began developing. There were a lot of questions at hand. We never stopped working as a studio. We were always on. We were also thinking, “What are people looking for now? What are people going to be attracted to now? What are we attracted to now as designers?” So this is something that has been bubbling for a while. But when we got the acceptance from DesignMiami/ it kind of condensed very quickly into a concept. It was something that had many elements already lying around.

You’re also an architecture firm. How does the booth represent all the disciplines that you work in?

At the firm, we also do more classic and contemporary architecture as well. It’s not just this futuristic approach, even though everything has a little bit of this DNA inside of it. It still has this DNA of serenity that we try to put through.

You’re Swedish and Mexican. Does your background influence your design? 

I think our work as a firm is very Mexican-Swedish. Some of the lines are very Scandinavian—light, efficient, thin, less material. We want to do things that feel easy and casual and soft. Then you have the Mexican part, which is more brutalist. If you see the desk, for example, you have these very thick, heavy legs, and then the top is this very fine top. It’s like this juxtaposition between the modernism of Scandinavian lines of cleanness and pureness together with this brutalism that I think that Mexico brings to the table. I think our pieces speak that story very distinctly. It took me a while to understand it, but I think now I see that influence being portrayed in the pieces.

What are some of the materials you use?

The tables are made with emerald quartzite from Brazil. It’s extremely hard material and hard to work—it requires hours and hours to get the cutting of these edges and everything. Then we’re working with navona white travertine. It’s a very commercial travertine, but we have another outtake of how to work with the travertine. We’re cutting everything in layers instead of using blocks—cutting it in layers and creating this monolithic approach, and then we have white quartzite on the desk. We like quartzite because when you hold it and you work it in, the surface becomes very soft, very smooth. Then you can also introduce that rawness to the edges that chipped off rawness, and because it’s hard, it’s not going to continue chipping. We are working with these juxtaposing materials that put roughness against polished matter.

You have a very specific direction for collaborations and partners. Can you tell us about that process?

It has always been a collaborative exercise to find materials that go well with our collection. With the meditation chair, we introduced biohack technology. We designed the chair and Resonate introduced the biohack technology that’s inside. The chair emits sound frequency which is connected to headphones. It’s also connected to a lighting program that emits lights. Both of those work in sync to induce different states of mental frequencies. One can put you to sleep. One can put you in a more introspective, meditative mode and one can wake you up. We’re playing with that biohacking technology as part of this whole concept of “Earth 2100.”

You just won an award for this exhibit—congratulations. What’s next?

We’re just going to continue working. This is our narrative for now, until we come up with a new one. The “Earth 2100” is just [a theme] for here, but we’re very romantic in the way we design and everyone in the firm is kind of a romantic—a hard worker, but also romantic. We want to find this balance between austere living and technological living, which is like the sweet point. I think that we’re striving to find that balance between the chaos and the growth and the amount of information and creating spaces for the mind and for relaxing. That’s our main goal.

Images courtesy of ATRA