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Controlled Burn: The DNA of Fire

Controlled Burned by Israel-based designer, Shira Horenstien, explores the relationship between humans and natural elements by using fire as the means as well as the outcome.

Designed by Shira Horesnstien, Controlled Burn deals with taming and domestication of fire in the indoor environment. The project’s final product is a ceramic object that serves as a magnetic core for social gathering.

During the process of the object formation something unique and special is born: a “time out”, an island of closeness, relaxation and intimacy in the modern urban alienating environment, something that is so needed particularly now in the period of social distancing that is forced upon us in the times of the COVID 19 epidemic. It is in this intimate and sensual environment, that the skills of fire mastering can be practiced.

The materials chosen for use in this work are safe for domestic purposes and enable both controls over the process of burning and natural random outbursts of the fire. The project addresses three aspects: (a) the relation between men and fire, (b) the internalization of fire from the outside into the domestic space, and (c) the experience of the bonfire.

For prehistoric man, the mastering of fire was a tremendous achievement that enabled him to survive and improve his living conditions, providing light in the dark, heat in the cold, and cooked healthy food. But not only that. The fireplace has also become a focus of social gathering around which relationships were defined and society was formed. Fire plays a social role also in our modern times.

Interested in nature-inspired design? Don’t miss this guide to Biophilic Design – Kellert’s principles and the benefits of nature.

The gathering around the fire extends beyond time and space. Fire provides a unifying power beyond religion, ethnicity, and gender. For 300,000 years, man has learned to feed the fire, to foster and limit it and to turn the foe into a friend.

The fire forms the central motive of the project. It is the vital force both in the process of production and in the use of the final product. The will to understand and control the power of nature is imprinted in human endeavour ever since. A game of power evolves between release and control of the fire. Man releases the flame in a controlled manner, whereas the fire bakes the ceramic tool and dies it according to its wild nature.

The mould that shapes the ceramic plate is carved out of wood using CNC. The wood both serves as fuel and forms the shape of the tool. The wooden matrix protects the ceramic from the direct and excessive heat that could crack the material. The matrix burns around the ceramic tool homogeneously and disappears toward the end of the process. Each and every such fireborn ceramic tool is unique just as the experience of the bonfire.

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