The Other Side of the Moon
Inspired by the lunar landscape, Austrian design duo transforms everyday flooring into something that's out of this world.
When Mohawk Group wanted a fresh perspective on a carpet design that could showcase a proprietary production process, the international flooring brand knew exactly where to turn. The Austrian design firm 13&9, with principals Martin Lesjak and Anastasia Su had already collaborated with Mohawk Group on an earlier project: the optically fluid Moving Floors line. This time, the couple was tasked with leveraging Mohawk’s proprietary Synthesis process, which layers pattern and texture to provide unprecedented 3D image quality and clarity.
Lesjak said the designers were asked to push the boundaries of this new technology, and the rest was up to them. “We’re known for being out-of-the-box thinkers,” Su added. “We are always pushing our own boundaries too.”
The couple, who are married and based in Graz, started 13&9 (taken from their favorite numbers) in 2013 as a product design offshoot of INNOCAD Architecture, which Lesjak co-founded in 1999. Teams from both businesses collaborate on projects, which range from buildings and interiors to floor coverings, lighting, and fashion accessories.
To start the design process, Lesjak and Su visited Mohawk Group’s production facility in Dalton, Ga. “We wanted to know everything about the technology, so we spent a couple of days there and talked to every person involved,” Su said. “We really wanted to explore creating something transformative.”
The duo knew they wanted to incorporate biophilic design, which brings in aspects of the natural world. After many discussions with their team, they chose the moon as their muse. “We wanted to create a certain atmosphere,” Lesjak said. “We’re not doing floors, we’re doing an interior landscape. The moon as a landscape is a symbol for a symbiosis between man and nature and technology.”
Manipulating images taken with an astronomy camera, they pursued a new view of the lunar surface. “We didn’t want to just take a picture of a landscape and print it on the carpet,” Su said. “That’s too obvious. We wanted to put our artistic interpretation of the beauty around us and of the feeling of the first step on the moon and our connection with humankind.”
At the same time, they aimed to take advantage of the Synthesis technology’s ability to deal with complex imagery and texture. “It’s a carpet base that is injected with dye, and we gave the base a three-dimensional texture with a geographic grid to layer the texture with the image,” Lesjak said. “With this layering, you could really gain something new.”
The process was quite challenging, they said, especially because the graphic imaging relies on precision dye injection over a textured pattern to highlight the moon’s landforms, contours, contrasts and shading. They first printed the 24-by-100-foot design on paper to see how it responded to dye saturation and then translated that information to Mohawk Group’s proprietary process.
“It was like creating an art piece,” Su said. “Some areas need more color and some take less and you need to understand how that relates to the shading.” Each colorway includes three shades ranging from light to dark.
“Flooring is such a large surface, why can’t it be inspirational and make walking on the floor an experience?” Su said. “So we thought, let’s create more engagement with this product.”
The designers encourage customers to interpret and incorporate the moonscape in ways that resonates with them, just as they do for themselves. “To us, the moon symbolizes the power of man to explore the universe and explore new territories, but it also makes the dimension of the universe very visible,” Lesjak said. “The moon is the neighbor that reminds us we’re not the only ones in the universe, and we shouldn’t behave like we are.”