Spanish youths flip interior design upside down

MADRID -- Spanish twenty-somethings go beyond posters and dartboards to create TV screen sinks and intense, light-emitting, plasma-filled glass bottles.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID -- A trickling waterfall down a sandy beach. The burnt oranges, pale pinks and smoky yellows making you squint one last time just before the sun sets. All in your living room. The blend of entrepreneurial twenty-somethings and new technologies will allow you to soon bring the sounds and sights of nature home.

Let's face it, there are simply no jobs for the majority of Spain's under-30 crowd. After finishing a five- or six-year degree in architecture, interior or exterior design, real estate or any other construction-based career, these graduates have nearly nowhere to go, but off the Iberian peninsula. But SmartPlanet talked to some innovative young minds working hard to create their own small businesses that produce original goods to sell both locally and, most importantly, abroad.

When Peio Lopez de Subijana and Jon Ander Garmendia Bilbao were working on their architectural final thesis, they "started thinking of building a facade and using lights on it," says Lopez, who was looking to create something both technological and sustainable to add to the building they were designing. This was the birth of L.E.B.--a light emitting bottle surface--which encloses plasma within glass to create intense lighting. "The light that shines inside the bottle is a 'cold plasma' light at high voltage, low intensity and pressure that has a lot of durability. Our light is very intense and white and it's spectrum is similar to sunlight's spectrum." Lopez says, "We use a noble gas inside the empty bottle," like helium, krypton, or argon. Neon glows for a red light. "We produce with below-average consuming energy sources."

They're targeting stores, concerts, bars and events that already utilize unique or extreme lighting. "Our product can apply to signage, architecture, scenography, public furniture," and so forth, Lopez says. Nearly every Spanish restaurant pours from real glass Coca-Cola and Fanta bottles, and many bars are featuring discounted cubos de botellines, which are buckets filled with mini bottles of Mahou or San Miguel beer. Lopez also gave the example of Heineken's omnipresent green glass advertising campaigns. L.E.B. is a way to reuse these bottles and to create lighting to advertise behind a bar or to build an entire multimedia facade bordering a large venue like a stadium or concert hall--places where bright, colorful lights are already being used. Now the project has evolved into using many types of glass.

The luminous result "looks like the light of the sun and stars, (which are made of) plasma too," Garmendia says. It's "the optimal light for humanity, more natural, limits mercury."

The bottles or other glass objects don't even need a direct electrical current. The L.E.B. duo says that "Energy reaches the bottle with a radio signal, and it is guided towards an electric area that surrounds the bottle. The energy that rests in the electric area gets hot and provokes...plasma...(E)lectric connections between the bottle and the electric supplier are not necessary."

L.E.B. lighting is supposed to produce ten times more light than normal halogen lighting and twice as much as L.E.D. lighting.

Comparatively, Garmendia says, "You can use it practically forever--from a primary use into an infinite use."

Spain and the European Union are offering rare funds for this kind of construction that refurbishes and rebuilds with a sustainable goal, leaving L.E.B. filling a need. Meanwhile, one of Spain's few flourishing sectors is the luxury one, which is where Amarist comes in.

Amarist combines function with art, engineering with decor, pitching to an upscale target audience. Taking a digital picture frame to a whole new level by integrating it with a sink, it makes the user able to display and watch videos while washing their face and hands. Users can put Amarist on the wall as fountain-like art or in the bathroom as a less traditional sink, allowing an interaction with images while doing routine activities.

The young creator Aran Lozano's aim is "to introduce art in an innovative manner and a technologically" advanced way.

The promotion of Amarist is extremely ethereal, with emotional words and images of a man in slow-motion tossing water on his face. When talking to SmartPlanet, Lozano talked about using his video-in-a-sink to emocionar, which means to get excited by something, and repeated the mantra of the made-up immobiliarte en casa, a spoonerism of real estate or home life and art.

Lozano assures that Amarist is also a "a super efficient sink," and that the interactive art simply "adds value to the product."

It is currently sold online, with the aim of soon stocking stores in Russia, China and the Asian Pacific. Lozano says these are the countries with both the largest populations and capacities to purchase. These are also the main supporters of Spain's growing luxury tourism industry. His plan is to distribute Amarist mainly at art galleries, focusing on the expressive side of the functional pieces. "This is the first time Spanish companies are thinking really international in this respect," referring to promoting goods on other continents.

For Lozano, it is about "changing art" and adding value to commonplace products, whether it's this sink, an interactive dinner table or another seemingly immobile piece of furniture that can feature moving images.

Both projects competed in Banesto's Yuzz conference, which allows 18- to 30-year-olds to pitch their original business ideas to successful entrepreneurs. "The youth (in Spain) have a very conformist vision. If you have a distinct vision, the youth of Spain has a vision of entrepreneurship (that's) really pessimistic," Lozano says. "Personally, I think it's a great moment emprender" (to be an entrepreneur,) he says. " The youth will change the model. I am an optimist."

Screenshots: L.E.B./Amarist2

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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