“We wanted to demonstrate what’s possible,” says David Kohn. Even a small building like this isn’t easy to achieve in somewhere as architecturally conservative as London, especially when it’s so boldly grafted onto a historic structure. “As a young architect, it’s rare to get to do a building in London with a facade,” jokes Kohn. The Skyroom demonstrates how the existing city fabric can be extended and pushed to its full use. “There’s the chance for it to be a great addition, rather than just an attraction,” says Kohn, who would like the Skyroom to become a permanent addition to the building.
PICK OF THE SHOW
The boring blue carpet, glass box offices and filing cabinets of the former office were used to considerable effect as props to the pieces on display. Thomas Wagner’s Office Tools, David Weatherhead’s Standard Stationery and graphic designer Julia’s Meantime wall clock worked particularly well in the environment, while exhibitors’ work created interesting juxtapositions between the unique and the ubiquitous.
Henny van Nistelrooy’s Fabricate pendant lamps made from a wire frame dressed in a tight-fitting fabric were an interesting take on the standard rice lamp, while Liliana Ovalle’s Piedras table presented some unexpected humour – her minimalist side table supported on a leg bent at an angle is held in place by a big hand-carved soapstone boulder so that it doesn’t fall over.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The light has a super minimal design – a simple, turned pine base with a circular metal shade, concealing the naked light bulb from one direction. Originally Engesvik experimented with a light that only had a base and which could fit in a small, confined space, but the shade was added to diffuse the light in the most basic fashion. “It’s nice to diffuse light in this low-tech way, it reminds me of an old-fashioned oil lamp,” says Engesvik, who was previously one-third of the now-defunct design studio Norway Says.
Now he is planning to make a new version of the lamp with an unpainted shade. “I want the shade to have a surface that has no need for paint, something which is more honest, just like the pine wood of the base,” says Engesvik. And it seems he had no reason to worry about it looking unfinished. Two British companies have already contacted him about putting Shelf Lamp into small-scale production.
“I think it’s really interesting, how sound can effect human behaviour,” says Suzuki. “But not enough thought has gone into the noises of domestic products.” He’s right; while taste, smell, and touch have been explored by countless designers, the tings, tongs and whistles of our daily grind are greatly overlooked. So the designer presented a sort of mini-retrospective at KK Outlet in Hoxton during the London Design Festival, showing a series of products that take sound as a starting point.
In some of the pieces Suzuki manipulates noises that are already present. His whistling Musical Kettle, for example, turns boiling water into a performance: as steam passes through the flute-shaped spout it whistles a song, tugging at the history of the object as well as lending it a sense of whimsy. In other pieces, he inserts sound. His Barcode Book, designed especially for the show, makes use of technology we use at the supermarket to make children’s books come alive – just scan the shape and listen.
Other projects see him behave as a more traditional problem-solver. On a recent trip to India, Suzuki was so overwhelmed by New Delhi’s street noise that he decided to remove sound rather than add to it. His White Noise Machine is a funnel that will meet pockets of chaos with a blast of quiet – inspired by the calming effect white noise has on babies.
Before Suzuki embarked on the Design Products MA at the RCA in 2007 he worked as a DJ. So besides introducing sounds into our domestic landscape, he’s also preoccupied with the problem of finding form for music, now that it’s vanished into data.
“The music industry is quite depressing. Now that everyone is downloading, young people are completely detached from records,” says Suzuki. So along with Berlin-based designer Jerszy Seymour, Suzuki found a way to express the excitement of a live music performance in plastic form. The gig is etched directly onto a record, a mould is made of the record surface, and a miniature production line commences – rather than clicking download, consumers pour molten plastic into the mould and walk away with a piece of the evening.
These concepts attracted the attention of techno DJ Jeff Mills, who asked Suzuki to develop these ideas. The result was the designer’s first product on the shop floor, an album that is a CD one side and etched for a turntable on the other.
One would think that Suzuki’s niche practice is very marketable. But the orders aren’t flooding in. “To be honest, it’s really hard,” says Suzuki. But he’s not letting this get in his way – he has more ideas forming, and he thinks he’s found the perfect place for them. “I want to work for Disney,” he says. “They are doing extreme entertainment, and they are doing really good concepts as well.”
credit Christopher Hunt
Anna Bates, Douglas Murphy, Johanna Agerman Ross