In architecture and interior design, ceilings are fundamental elements that combine functionality with aesthetic features such as colors, textures, and materials. While providing quality and comfort, unique and well-thought ceilings can create a dramatic visual impact, defining a building’s tone and character. However, even though a room’s “fifth wall” is a crucial design component, it is not frequently emphasized in architectural projects – or not nearly as much as decor, furniture, wallpaper, or other elements that define interior ambiance. It is therefore important to explore the numerous creative opportunities that a ceiling can offer, beyond the typical plain white shade that continues to dominate in most interior spaces.
The multiple qualities of aluminum chains
With that in mind, Montblanc based company Kriskadecor, since its creation in 1926, has developed a wide range of customized ceiling projects made with anodized aluminum links, following a rising demand for metallic chains in architectural design. Although the aluminum chains can be used in multiple forms – among them space dividers, wallcoverings, facades and lighting elements –, they particularly stand out when they are suspended in the air, reducing the distance between the ceiling and the ground to offer comfort, and at the same time, limitless design possibilities.
Apart from being lightweight and timeless, the material is 100% recyclable, making it ideal for any project that seeks sustainability, especially in a context where demand for eco-friendly products is growing exponentially. In addition, the rails are custom curved to create flowing structures that can be easily installed without requiring specialized personnel. On a functional level, the chains can wrap around light points, play with the transparency of the links to create light and shadow effects, and hide technical registers.
Same material, different design solutions
Nonetheless, besides these qualities, often architects’ primary consideration when selecting a material is its ability to adapt to different scenarios and requirements, allowing the creation of unique spaces while simultaneously meeting users’ demands. Kriskadecor’s aluminum chains are customizable in size, shape, and color. With in-house technology and a palette of 24 colors, they can accurately reproduce images or patterns in brilliant or satin finishes. Hence, the material is characterized by its versatility and flexibility, offering multiple design options in ceilings – from simple geometries to sculptural figures suspended in the air – that can respond to changing trends in the world of interior design.
This ability to fulfill an architect’s or designer’s vision for a certain space means the product can adapt to a diverse array of environments and scales, such as hotels, restaurants, corporate offices, airports, shopping centers, and private residences. Consequently, personalized chains have been applied in ceilings all around the world. One example is Kengo Kuma’s intervention on Gaudi’s Casa Batlló, which includes layers of chains with a sculptural form that cascade from the ceiling to the basement. Besides providing movement, volume, and acoustic comfort to the indoor space, the material conveys a color gradient by absorbing different shades of light that filters through the skylight.
Another example is the Westfield Mall of the Netherlands, the largest shopping center in the country, which features 235 kilometers of chains in 3,020 sqm of decorative ceiling – a length equivalent to the entire territory of the Netherlands. Since the building consisted of several blocks with different identities, one of the challenges for MVSA architects, the firm commissioned to redevelop the complex, was to merge the old with the new in a coherent way. Following that objective, the design for the Dining Plaza’s ceiling was born, featuring sinuous shapes in brown and satin gold in what is, to this day, Kriskadecor’s largest project.
Creating curved shapes that imitate the movement of air, the chain panels wrap around different leisure or restaurant venues – enhancing and defining them –, while also providing a warm, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere for visitors. Furthermore, “they allow the high and low areas of the ceiling to be unified, making the design much more coherent”, says Thijs van de Straat from MVSA Architects. A small chain link designed to form infinite chains thus has the ability to delineate locations, create a unified lively ambiance, and essentially transform the space.
In this way, ceilings, which are often overlooked, offer endless opportunities for creative, yet functional designs that can adapt to various needs. A simple recyclable product, capable of creating attractive spaces while being customizable, light, and versatile, is an innovative alternative in the constant search for materials that attempt to leave plain ceilings in the past.