Charles Haupt was born in 1980 in Johannesburg and graduated from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology as an industrial designer in 2001. Working closely with Otto du Plessis, he has spearheaded the functional design side of Bronze Age Studio, combining modern fabrication and digitally driven design with traditional bronze sculpture-casting.
Given since childhood to stripping objects down to their elements, Haupt was drawn to science at school and grew up among his architect father’s models and plans that anticipated the order of things. He is guided from inception to production by a concern for function and process rather than adornment, but does not consider himself a minimalist; rather, he invests structural details with beauty. His work strikes a balance between reproducibility and singularity, combining the precision, efficiency, and flexibility of digital and industrial processes with the tactile intimacy of hand-crafted objects.
An apprenticeship at Bronze Age Art Foundry shortly after his studies piqued his love of bronze, followed by two years working for a foundry in London. The material’s mechanical properties enabled him to explore his fascination with nature’s mathematical patterns and articulations at every scale, a subject of study since Plato that has included Fibonacci’s sequence, Turing’s morphogenesis and Mandelbrot’s fractals. Haupt’s interest lies in the rhythms and logic of symmetries, spirals and tessellations that are integral to the structure and surfacing of his designs.
Citing a feather among his definitions of beauty, he speaks of how it can be reduced to barbs, barbules and hooklets while at the same time underpin the mechanics of a bird’s flight en masse and be equally at play in the astounding and as yet unexplained synchronised movement of migrating flocks.
Haupt has taken his vision for the future of design a conceptual step further with the use of technology. In real terms, he established loose parameters for code in a 3-D modelling programme that explores the natural logic of growth rings and branching of trees.
His three-legged Tropism tables are firmly rooted in the functional realm even as they venture into pure aesthetics with digitally derived forms that are both reminiscent and prescient, like archaeological artefacts of the future. While the Tropism works are forms of (and for) an imagined future that hack nature’s evolution and entropy, his Num Num collection draws inspiration from the native South African shrub whose distinctive thorns are magnified into sculptural bronze table bases and stands.
Haupt has exhibited widely with Southern Guild, both locally and internationally. His work has been shown at Design Miami, Design Miami/Basel and Design Days Dubai, and was featured in Christie’s London’s First Open auction. He is represented in New York by top gallery Todd Merrill.
Together with Gerrit Giebel, Haupt started NØDE, a design studio producing metal furniture and interior products, and is the result of Bronze Age Studio branching out into new design territory.