The designers and engineers featured in Redefining Agility apply contemporary manufacturing processes and materials to the production of specialist sporting equipment. Their objects expand the notion that craftsmanship and new technologies may go hand-in-hand and, like many designers and engineers, those featured in Redefining Agility are fusing new scientific and material developments to limit compromises whilst enhancing safety and performance capabilities.
The last four decades have seen major advances in the development of polymers and manufactured fibres. A 1950s invention originally estimated as potentially costing millions of dollars per pound to manufacture, carbon fibre matting (carbon composites) soon found its way into the aerospace industry and was quickly applied to sporting equipment design, an ideal testing ground for carbon composites.
Sport is a global spectacle and equipment is responsible for around 15% of the sporting industry's international revenue. In a market with total annual sales figures in the hundreds of billions, the trickle down to the mass market of new technology from elite athletes is inevitable. Carbon composites are no longer exclusive to large budget high performance objects, however. Product and furniture designers have taken advantage of the many unique characteristics of this material just as aerospace, sport and medicine were able to draw upon and inadvertently share the original discovery.
Akiko Busch writes, "Objects, like people, can live double lives. And contemporary sports equipment thrives - with subtlety, wit, and pure exuberance - on its rich double life. The new materials and technology of such equipment have redefined the way sports are played, enhancing speed, force, distance, height. At the same time, however, their forms spell out clearly and consistently our cultural profile. For all the energy and vitality this equipment represents, what it may do with the greatest agility and grace is serve these two functions at once." (Design For Sport, 1998)
The designers and engineers featured in Redefining Agility are part of a new generation of 'craftspeople', actively utilizing the characteristics of fibres and polymers to create highly specialized bespoke objects. Prototyping new equipment for unforgiving scenarios, they are applying their skills wherever boundaries of agility need to be redefined.
Wayne Alexander, Pete Anderson, Anderson Surfboards, Milton Bloomfield, Murray Broom, C-Tech, Dynamic Composites, Firstlight Kayaks, Mark Hildesley, Materials Optimisation, Southern Spars, Alex Vallings