Making Ancient Cultures Look Modern

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By Dwell and Tracy Lynn Chemaly
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Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.

For Cape Town local Driaan Claassen, design is a science. Claassen’s work in bronze has seen him experiment with polyurethane foam, ice, fractals, and chemical electroplating processes to turn complex concepts into shimmering objets, vessels, and sculptures, each of which is an invitation for closer inspection.

Driaan Claassen gives luxe bronze a raw appeal. 

Driaan Claassen gives luxe bronze a raw appeal. 


A slim bronze vessel. 

A slim bronze vessel. 

With no formal education in art or design, Claassen uses his knowledge of 3D design—gained through a diploma in animation—to construct forms and patterns that speak of his obsession with nature.

A bronze bowl by the designer. 

A bronze bowl by the designer. 

"I’m always observing nature," he explains, "asking why one flower has four petals, when another has six, or why the bark of a tree is turning while growing." This intense curiosity translates into studies of geometry, whereby he investigates possibilities of transforming nature’s patterns into processes that can be controlled and repeated in his designs.

A bronze object by the designer. 

A bronze object by the designer. 

Bronze allows him to present these ideas with both highly polished and matte-black elements in the same piece. "It represents life’s contrasts," he says, "where black absorbs, and light reflects."

Natural forms influence the designer's process. 

Natural forms influence the designer's process. 

Claassen’s fascination with ancient cultures has led him to revere design as a form of high craft, where each creation has symbolic meaning. The reflective nature of his work is, therefore, not without purpose. "It’s a symbol of introspection," he explains. "It allows you to look in and see yourself. What you think about when observing my work is an important observation about yourself."