rethink: London

rethink book cover copy

Looking behind some of the products on show at the London Design Festival, Karen McCartney found that the notions of revisiting, rethinking and re-engineering were a dominant force.

Rethink: the book
Last week saw the launch of Amanda Talbot’s inspirational book ‘rethink the way you live’ (Murdoch Books). It is a determinately non-preachy book arising out of disenchantment with the rather stage-managed world of up market interior magazines and the growing gap between the homes featured and the way she and her friends lived. According to Talbot: ‘Another factor also came into play: moving the personal story into a much bigger picture. The global economy crashed, friends lost their jobs and I was feeling scared and overloaded’. In her book she explores a series of themes from living with greenery, human-centric design, optimistic design, space considerations, self-sufficiency and self-examination. Her back-to basics checklist asks us to consider what we buy, to avoid fashion fads, to ask ourselves if we will be bored with this object next year? Will it endure our family’s lifestyle? And most pertinently, do we really need another one? With the philosophy of the book very much in my head I looked back at what I saw at the London Design Festival and noticed that Talbot is not alone in her outlook. Here are some examples of the ‘rethink’ mindset in action.

Rethink: Process
Simon Hasan describes his working method as ‘Design Archaeology’, the combination of historical research into ancient crafts process with the contemporary mindset of an industrial designer.

Simon Hasan. Photo by Rick Morris Pushinsky.

Simon Hasan. Photo by Rick Morris Pushinsky.

A graduate from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Design Products, much of his study has been into Cuir bouilli, a medieval technique for creating armour from leather. Other exploration into the pre-industrial craft of wood cleaving produced his Cleft Oak Stool, 2008, where the act of splitting the timber along the grain ensured that the form of the legs followed that of the branch. These stools have honesty, but in a touch typical of his style, he creates the option to create a layer of luxury – adding a tweed cushion and buckled leather apron.

Cleft Oak Stool from 2008 with cushion in tweed and apron in leather

Cleft Oak Stool from 2008 with cushion in tweed and apron in leather

Hasan’s ability to combine high craft technique with luxury has not gone unnoticed by the trade and a recent collaboration with Fendi saw a trio of facetted (a tribute to George Braque) mannequins fashioned in leather with sections of gold and palladium, for the 2011 London store opening. The selection shown at London Design Festival was a more commercial development of his work, producing a limited range of exquisitely pared-back products – a stool, a hanging light and a range of glassware. Each played out the same theme in different ways.

A trio of mannequins for Fendi

A trio of mannequins for Fendi

The Wrap Glassware range shown at the London Design Festival

The Wrap Glassware range shown at the London Design Festival

The Bermondsey Stool in saddle leather and brass

The Bermondsey Stool in saddle leather and brass

The Bermondsey Stool has a ‘deeply drawn’ seat in heavy saddle leather, paired with highly polished legs in cast aluminium or electro-plated steel. The leather form of the Crush Lamp is created through the application of moisture and heat and the crushed effect is inspired by hydraulic presses. The Wrap Glassware – a decanter and bottle shapes – again exploits contrast beautifully. The thick, formed leather feels protective against the transparency of the laboratory-grade borosilicate glass. One has the feeling that all of Hasan’s objects will simply get better as they age, gain patina and are used with love and appreciation.

Crush Lamp copy

Rethink: production’s environmental impact
I had covered Gareth Neal’s work before in 2010 when he was part of an exhibition called ‘Lab Craft – digital adventures in contemporary craft’ and so I had him cast in the light of a rapid-prototyping, laser cutting, type of guy. But not one to be pigeon-holed, his latest project called ‘In Pursuit of Carbon Negative’ took him back to the woods (literally and metaphorically) away from all electronic devices, all comfort, and all foods that were not local or foraged.

Gareth Neal's journey to manufacture in his "In Pursuit of Carbon Negative" Project

Gareth Neal’s journey to manufacture in his “In Pursuit of Carbon Negative” Project

His experiment had a few simple goals: to produce entirely in the same location as the materials are grown; to release less carbon in the production of the product than the woodland removes and to promote the notion of local and sustainable production. Neal teamed up with Brighton University so that all results could be collated and the data analysed.

stools ready to travel

The finished items were stacked on the back of a bicycle and brought back to London in time for the London Design Festival

Physically it was demanding. He, and his two co-workers, had to cycle from London to Moreton Wood in Herefordshire – a journey of 157 miles (252km) – before beginning work on the two trees felled the previous winter. Tools involved traditional pedal-powered lathes and a rather lugubrious draft horse.

working on table

working on table

When they had finished they had to drag the items back to retailer SCP East where they were put on the shop floor for sale – the Morton table, stool and candlesticks. Looking through Neal’s twitter feed @Gareth_Neal from 19th -29th August the story reveals itself.

Rethink: Reduce, Recycle & Reuse
Chris Sanderson of The Future Laboratory gave a talk at 100% Design entitled ‘Better than Sustainable’. If you ever felt that the notion of sustainability has become dulled and meaningless through overuse Sanderson’s lecture reversed that idea. The responsiveness and cleverness of the design community to the continuing challenges of a throwaway society, the continued effects of climate change and growing populations are being tackled across the globe in a number of inventive and inspiring ways. Here are 7 of the best for you to checkout further.

  1. Studio Swine’s ‘The Sea Chair Projectwww.studioswine.com. In conjunction with Kieran Jones they developed ‘The Nurdler’  described as a ‘sluice-like contraption capable of sorting vast quantities of marine debris’. This means that plastic fragments can be isolated and recycled.
  2. Tobias Juretzek’s ‘Rememberme’ Chair combines worn out clothes of sentimental value with resin to create a piece of furniture. www.tobiasjuretzek.com
  3. The Biolite Camp Stove makes burning wood  clean and safe while generating electricity to charge phones and lights. www.biolitestove.com
  4. In Mexico architects Stacion-ARquintectura created Modolo 10×10  — a modular, pre-fab house project designed in recycled materials to serve poor families and disaster relief.
  5. 3DIY promotes the idea of Do It Yourself alongside Design It Yourself. The rise of the 3-D printer and the concept of up cycling are explored by Samuel Nelson Bernier’s Project RE_.  Check it out on www.project-re.blogspot.com.au/
  6. The Miran Nihon (Japan Future) Project instigated by ad agency TBWA/HAKUHODO in the wake of the tsunami looked to 20 completely new technologies to create the concept of a house where nature and technology co-exist and can operate off-grid. www.tbwa/hakuhodo.co.jp/mirannihon
  7. Studio Aisslinger’s ‘Chair Farm’ grows chairs naturally in a greenhouse. When mature they are cut out of their steel ‘corset’ to reveal the chair form. www.asslinger.de

Rethink: materials
The Victoria & Albert Museum  was at the heart of activity at the London Design Festival and to celebrate 10 years of the festival they commissioned ‘Bench Years’, collaboration with Established & Sons, which linked a designer with a different material. The brief was to produce a bench to be displayed, and used, in the John Madejski Garden in the centre of the Museum. After the festival the benches were auctioned and the funds raised put towards developing next year’s festival.

Sam Hecht Plinth bench

Sam Hecht Plinth bench

Plinth by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin of Industrial Facility. They were teamed up with Corian in a design that is inspired by the plinths within the Museum.

Pig's foot bench by Fernando Brizio

Pig’s foot bench by Fernando Brizio

Pig’s Foot by Portuguese designer Fernando Brizio is fashioned in cork

Martin Gamper, Infinity Bench

Martin Gamper, Infinity Bench

Martin Gamper, Infinity Bench in collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Company uses thermally modified hardwoods, red oak and tulipwood, arranged in a slanted formation. This proved the most popular bench with visitors – it was never empty.

Amanda Levene ceramic bench

Amanda Levene ceramic bench

Amanda Levene from AL_A worked with Spanish ceramics company Ceramica Cumella to create ‘Bench of Plates’ a serpentine configuration edged in palette of colours inspired by the ceramics rooms at the Museum.

Alexander Taylor Tube bench

Alexander Taylor Tube bench

Alexander Taylor Tube bench is a sculptural execution in mirrored, polished steel. It is the result of working with steel specialists Caparo

A-bench by Felix de Pass

A-bench by Felix de Pass

Felix de Pass modified an existing design in sheet steel to create A-Bench. The angled nature of the seat and the perforations in the metal ensure rainwater doesn’t collect in the seat.

Grcic bench

Grcic bench

German designer Konstantin Grcic teamed up with the Italian glass tile manufacturer Bisazza to create Pier – a combination of simple rectilinear forms enlivened by a subtle gradation of the tile colour.

Barber Osgerby Western front bench

Barber Osgerby Western front bench

Barber Osgerby looked to the shrapnel marks left in the walls of the Western side of the Victoria & Albert Museum after World War 2 and created a concept, in marble, that reflected that sense of random perforation. They worked with Italian studio Tor Art to produce the bench.