Sheer Wall


”I was seeking a new way to separate space in the era of visual culture and was inspired by the way an environment may be perceived by a visually impaired person”, says Jesse Pietilä about his MA thesis project for the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland.

The result is Sheer Wall, a light and stunningly elegant aluminium frame which poses visual restrictions through local surface manipulation and creates the illusion of separated spaces in an open plan environment.

The method is to control and guide the movement of light through an object and the design draws on basic principles of light restriction to achieve clever functionality and sophisticated optical effects. “It investigates the possibility of creating ambivalent spatial qualities and uses the experience of visual imparity as way of dividing space. The screen produces a disturbance into the field of vision which affects the immediate spatial experience.” explains Pietilä.

The wall is constructed by laser cut rectangular pieces of aluminium put together to form a consistent pattern of triangle-shaped openings. Pietilä used the computer as a creative tool and the concept was developed virtually, using a three-dimensional rendering program to investigate its shadow map, before being realised materially. The idea is that of individual elements put together to produce a whole which is larger than its parts.

“I ended up choosing aluminium because of the lightness of the material. But the design poses no restrictions. The wall could be produced in almost any material; metal, wood or even cardboard.” says Pietilä.

The visual restriction, the ‘black spots’, are achieved when the triangular spaces are decreased as the three sides are contracted towards each other. Two parameters, the size of the grid cell and depth of the structure, create the topological geometry.

The design offers a range of aesthetic as well as practical possibilities as the small aluminium pieces can be manipulated individually, and are almost independent of each other. Each wall is a versatile, tailor made construction, able to respond to the requirements of each individual location. It is a made-to-measure invention to suit each unique purpose.       

“The design is now ready to be put into the hands of producers.” says Pietilä. “The product works well in a number of different spaces and contexts, in private homes, offices, exhibition centers and commercial spaces.”

The article was published in the Forum AID Awards Supplement 2009