May 2010

True to Form Eddy Sykes

  • Eddy Sykes
  • Sykes’ fascination with “esoteric kinetic systems” is evident in the mesmerizing movement of his handcrafted Yakuza Lou chandelier.
  • Sykes’ fascination with “esoteric kinetic systems” is evident in the mesmerizing movement of his handcrafted Yakuza Lou chandelier.

The Gearhead

To those who say there is no original design thinking coming out of Detroit these days, we say meet Eddy Sykes. The 39-year-old architect and artist was raised and educated in the Michigan metropolis, absorbing the quirks of the city’s still largely blighted core.

The character that emerged from Motown has the unfettered creative spirit of Buckminster Fuller, the raffishness of a toned-down Kid Rock and a gift for the choice remark that would do Elmore Leonard proud. “Detroit has a tendency to shape you at an early age—so you’re like one of those tomatoes that grows to look like Richard Nixon’s head,” says Sykes. “I’ve done my time there. Now L.A. is my parole officer.”

Well, you can take the boy out of the Motor City, but you can’t take the Motor City out of the boy—or at least not the motor. Sykes is an inveterate gearhead. For a 2006 residential commission, his L.A. design firm, ChersonProm, devised a staircase with hand-carved cherry-wood handrails and foot treads of textured urethane panels that—to quote his Website—were made “by taking a cast of a meticulously sculpted geometry derived from the collisional intersections of actual eggs.”

The key (if grammatically dubious) term is collisional. Sykes is fascinated with motion: “My firm specializes in esoteric kinetic systems—and we have gotten requests for things like floating a piece of architecture on air.” But he isn’t dismissive of such cuckoo inquiries.

He dreams of design that is moving in every sense of the word. Asked to name his influences, he cites the famously fastidious Renaissance goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini. “I’m a sucker for that kind of commitment to the work, whatever that work may be,” he says.

The truth of that sentiment is clear in his dedication to a series of kinetic designs called Yakuza Lou. (Don’t ask: Not even he knows what the name means.) YL’s recent technical marvel is a bespoke kinetic chandelier—all mechanical and decorative elements handmade in Sykes’ atelier—in a style that might be called “techno-baroque.”

Closed, the chandelier presents a flat plane of 12 triangular flanges forming a six-pointed star, each pierced with Rorschach-like shapes. Activated, the piece unfolds like a blossoming flower. It’s an impressive piece of work on both technical and aesthetic levels—one that bodes well for the future of an iconoclast from Motown.

See Sykes' Yakuza Lou chandelier blossom before your eyes.