In the May/June issue of Frame, we look at surfaces and materials that are not what they seem. Resource scarcity, moral issues and costs are driving production of sustainable alternatives such as fake leather and stone and hardwood laminates. But unlike most counterfeits seeking to mimic an original material, a new generation of designers is playing with consumer expectations through materials that have the visual features of one thing, and the physical characteristics of another. From Kengo Kuma’s parody of hardwood veneers for Alpi to Onno Adriaanse’s foam shelving, there’s a new standard for mimicry in design.

One of these deviously deceptive projects is Jorge Penadés’s Structural Skin. For Penadés, the rush of the design process is in seeking to create objects that defy current systems of making. His search for new materials and productive manipulations led to the creation of a material that combines leather offcuts and bone glue – the result resembles chipboard, but its tactility reveals the smoke-like textures and colours that make the natural material so aesthetically provocative.

In Madrid’s Machado-Muñoz gallery, Penadés recently presented Poli-Piel, a collection of furniture and lamps combining Structural Skin with planes of glass, marble, aluminium and mirrors. Assembled using thick leather straps and buckles, Poli-Piel, created exclusively for the gallery, suggests fresh expressions of pre-existing forms through the exploration of new impermanent compositions.

A similar method was used at Dutch Design Week 2017, when Overtreders W and Bureau Sla created a temporary pavilion made entirely of loaned materials secured by a complex arrangement of borrowed straps and belts. Like Overtreders W’s People’s Pavilion – which received the Sustainability Award at the Frame Awards 2018 – the hijacking of once-invisible mechanisms of connection reveal traditional methods of production to be merely provisional.

Get your copy of Frame 122 in the Frame Store from 1 May.