Rock Skin – a process towards geological empathy

a process towards geological empathy


Geology has its own kind of entropy, says Robert Smithson, where everything is gradually wearing down. Little by little, wind erodes rocks and water carries away river banks. Contrary to a mechanistic logic, this process is irreversible – it continuously metamorphosizes our earth. Yet, by extracting materials for building, we intervene with geological entropy in a very different way. Today, the seemingly immovable formation over millions of years is being dismantled with an unimaginable speed.

Not unlike taking a photo, where light traces objects on films, we make imprints of mountain surfaces with thin layers of natural latex. Peeling off the latex, we leave the mountain “untouched” while a cast against this Rock-skin mold “recaptures” the disappearing geological formation—a double act of resistance against depletion. In turn, as we encounter the cast, we can still experience the reality of the mountain through its texture and form, even though the mountain isn’t there directly.

In a way, what the Rock Skin cast is to the mountain is as the trees are to wind: you need trees to hear the wind, the Rock Skin helps us see the mountain. It is indirectly through the Rock Skin cast, that the existence of the mountain can be perceived. Here, intent and constraint, the natural and the man-made, the material presence and the geological memory become inseparably one and the same.


Félix Michaud
Stefan Müller
Jocelyn Reynolds

Support from

Gipsmuseum/Gipsbergwerk Schleitheim
Pro Helvetia Design Switzerland
Ikea Foundation Switzerland
Design + Technology LAB