Relativistic Surfaces – Glass Results
by on October 25, 2016 in Design



“Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelius


Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but they only have relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.

Relativistic Surfaces are a series of surfaces that exploit optical relativity to create dynamic spaces. ‘Relativistic Surfaces’ is about the subjective nature of experience. We often take it for granted, and that is something I want to change. I want to make us acknowledge it: that all reality is in the eye of the beholder, and that our perspective literally defines our reality.

I have designed a series of modular optical surface materials out of glass and epoxy that create a spatial feature that reminds us of and makes us acknowledge the subjective nature of experience.

Both the faceted relief of the glass tiles and the angled inclusions within the epoxy tiles function by one colour occluding as much as possible all others from different points of view. As a broad surface and in a space the difference between our focus and our peripheral vision reacts to our position in the room and forces us to locate and acknowledge that the cause for the changing colours of the space is within ourselves. This creates an existential experience of space, and of our own responsibility for the nature of that experience.

Spatial Installation and Exhibitions


Rainbow – Mature Tones

During Dutch Design Week 2016 I used a rainbow of mature tones as the colour scheme for my main exhibition piece because it shows the largest difference between perspectives. I wanted to use that high relative difference between perspectives to communicate the concept and experience of optical relativity as clearly as possible and in an eye catching way. I received a lot of compliments and didn’t have to explain the concept much at all since it was self-evident to most people.

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Some of the public also picked up on the deeper philosophical context of the project without prompting. Those who did, where touched by my attempt to visualize the limits of individual perception to stimulate discourse and mutual understanding. A lot of interesting conversations ensued about the limits of knowledge, about doubt, about the need to abandon all conceptually fixed positions and perspectives. To live in a sort of mental free-fall and stay in a sensitive and continual dialogue with others: completely open to all ideas without becoming dependent on any.

These conversations, with about 15% of the Public who picked up the deeper meaning, is exactly the kind of discourses I was trying to stimulate. Implemented as a spatial installation: a large floor tiled with relativistic surfaces, where people can walk around (with shoes off), will increase the percentage of the Public who pick up the deeper meaning, and start those interesting conversations.

Rainbow – Vibrant Tones


I think a more vibrant rainbow colour scheme would also work well when the tiles are used in the context of a spatial installation for a Gallery or Muesum, for example Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, or Tate modern in London.

A 3D rendering of this tile colour scheme, tessellated as a floor, looks something like:img_0826


I am working on a 3D rendered movie to show how a spatial installation of this tile would work in a large space. Instead of rotating around the tile, or exhibit, to experience the optical relativity, in a large space  you would simply have to walk and look around to experience how your perspective changes the appearance of the room.

The X, Y, and Z coordinates of your retinas become extremely significant to how you see the room. A little to the left: then its green, a little more right and up, and its yellow with orange. This makes your position: the position and posture of your body and head, ultimately responsible for how you see the world. The sense of responsibility throws the users sense of self back into their own center and creates a sense of existential responsibility for how one sees the world.


Commercial and Residential Applications

Of course the Rainbow colour scheme is better suited for high impact installations, but Relativistic Surfaces also has vast potential for commercial applications. Though the essential glass tile remains the same, different colour schemes for commercial and residential applications offer vastly different effects, ranging from the high impact to the more subtle.


Below follows some examples of alternative colour schemes that are more suited for interior and commercial applications. Including feature walls, ceilings, and corridors in private homes as well as facades or feature walls for Corporate lobbies, Hotel receptions, Train stations, airports, and public spaces.

Blue to Pink Tile:


blacktile_singleThis glass relief tile is made of light and dark blue, light and dark magenta, with black and white poles. The effect is of shifting from cold to warm colours, from dark to light, and from blue to red. This particular colour scheme is well suited to a well-lit feature wall in a private home, to give an otherwise flat space an extra dimension and dynamic feeling.

In this example of 2 tones blending between black and white the 2 tones can be defined by the client for example green to blue, or grey and blue. The effect is most subtle because of a continuous transition from one colour to the next.


Three Colours Black:



gif_maker_blacktileThis glass relief tile is coloured with 3 highlight colours: pink, blue, and yellow, with black as a main colour between the 3 highlight colours.

This particular example would work well in a luxury bathroom or spa, where the high light colours come through under spot lighting.

The effect is more subtle as black remains the continuous context of the highlight colours. That also gives each highlight colour extra clarity by not having any other colours to distract from it.

Three Colours White:



This glass relief tile is coloured with the 3 primary colours: red, blue, and yellow, with white as a main colour between the 3 primary colours. The effect has more impact as white remains the continuous context of the primary colours. That also gives each primary colour extra impact by not having any other colours to distract from it.

grouptile_whiteThis Gif shows the 3 colours white tile in a tessellation. Here we can see that where the sides of the tiles meet the slight bending of the glass creates an interesting magnification effect.

This particular colour scheme would work well in a well lit residential space as a feature wall, but equally well as a feature wall along a stair well, or corridor, in a public commercial space such as an office or hospital.

Of course the specific highlight colours and the main colour are customizable per client.  For example Green, Purple, Blue, with metallic silver as main colour between the highlight colours.

I also feel variations of the ‘3 colours white’ colour scheme would fit well in an Islamic setting: in residential, spiritual and public spaces of the Arabic world. There is a long tradition of geometric tiles within the context of Arabic Architecture.

6 Colour Tartan White




Within the hexagonal matrix colour patterns within a single perspective are also possible, an option the Tartan Pattern tile illustrates with simple stripes of colours. The intersecting perspectives here offer very interesting accidental pattern overlapping.

The Tartan pattern tile would work well as a feature wall in dynamic spaces where people have move and change position: gyms, yoga studios, shared office space, and communal spaces.


Going forwards I am looking to collaborate with tile or glass production partner and sponsor to explore the possibilities for mass production. Once an industrial sponsor is in place, and a client base is established, other relief patterns and products can be explored.

At the moment the prototype tiles I do have are made by hand: using hand made flint-plaster casting moulds as well as being coloured by hand. This gives them an artisanal feel as each one as slight imperfections. Using industrial production process including pressed glass and industrial glass colouring techniques will produce refined and consistently high quality tiles.

It will also bring the production costs down. As I produce them now, each small glass tile would have to be sold for no less than 50 pounds, while the larger tiles could be sold for no less than 250 pounds. This makes an approximate cost per metre squared of around 1k.  With industrial production processes the costs of each tile would go down significantly, making them available to a wider market.


Stretching the limits of glass as a material I would like to see if it possible to produce large panels of glass with such reliefs are possible. This would bring relativistic surfaces into a new exciting realm of screens, table tops, and windows.

In terms of Spatial Installations I will continue to work on a 3D rendered concept video, and would also like to move towards installations of conceptual furniture pieces such as discussion tables.

In terms of Residential and Commercial products I would like to continue to experiment with colour schemes and try simple black and white patterns, as well as metallic and iridescent finishes.


Have a more detailed look at the design and prototyping process here: