Spread around the city, linked to natural elements, fun and interactive, this is how the five temporary installations for the London Design Festival 2016 appeared.
More dynamic than ever, the London Design Festival entertained a great number of enthusiastic visitors through temporary installations that where both immersive and interactive. We played with bioresponsive plants in the heart of Soho, meditated in Asif Khan’s mini urban jungles in a very underground Shoreditch, and experienced wood’s structural limits, walking in the suspended tunnel at the Chelsea College of Art. Two more British pillars: Shakespeare, with an installation of letters at the citizenM Hotel in the Bankside District, and the ‘Forecast’, an obsession interpreted by Barber & Osgerby at the Somerset House.
Alison Brooks Architect has built a hardwood structure at the Chelsea College of Art in London. It is a live experiment, an innovative structure that shifts construction horizons. The mid-20th century may have been marked by the use of concrete and the late-20th century by that of steel but the 21st century seems distinguished by the use of solid wood.
The name was prompted by its form, resembling a smiling mouth. The 34-metre-long and 3-metre-high pavilion is made of 12 panels of American tulipwood, each one laminated in five layers, 14 metres long and 4.5 deep. The panels are woven into each other like fingers, stacked and then glued or pressed in alternate layers. During this process, six of the 12 panels were slightly curved.
The two projecting halves, 12 metres long, remain balanced thanks to the base, also in solid wood, on which the entire structure rests, secured to the base with approximately 2000 self-threading screws. The entire structure was an engineering challenge as the Arup engineers must have discovered. Brooks herself has said that this was an opportunity to take the material to its structural limit.
The composition is made more complicated by holes along the structure, more concentrated where the tension is less and sparser towards the centre. They have a primarily decorative function as, by day, the light creates plays of shadows on the inside and, in the evening, the pavilion lit from within looks like a torch in the darkness of night.
L’Eden by Perrier-Jouёt, curated by Parisian designer Noè Duchafour-Lawrance, pays homage not only to the house’s champagne but also to the first Bioresponsive Garden by Bompas & Parr. This is a new sensorial experience inside a space for relaxation in Soho, one of London’s busiest traffic areas.
The space is split on two levels with the installation proper at street level – a vertical system of 3D-printed elements suspended from the ceiling on a network of brass tubes. The idea is that of a pergola from which vines hang, alternated with crystal champagne glasses ready to be filled. The champagne glass was specially designed and decorated with Art Nouveau-inspired flowers and buds.
On the floor below is a bioresponsive garden, an installation filled with plants mimicking the movement of those exploring. The movement is activated by sensors that detect a presence, in this case human, and activate the mechanism.
Visitors find themselves before vines that open to create an arch of plants and they pass beneath it to enter the garden; a dancing tree that bends backwards and forwards at the sides, following the spectator’s movements; and, finally, a green mirror that reacts as if an animal examining what is before it, withdrawing before brusque or hurried movements and advancing towards visitors when they move slowly and gently.
For the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the citizenM Bankside Hotel has worked with the Globe and designer Hannah Yates to create a secret garden that reveals itself little by little. Not visible from the street, you have to enter and explore at which point a small foyer suddenly appears, filled with trees, tables, chairs and a whole forest of letters.
The letters in the installation compose the phrase Speak low if you speak love and hang down the full height of the garden, exploiting the space in every which way turning in the wind. Designer Hannah Yates says that the slow movement means that the words are revealed slowly, like a secret.
Speak low if you speak love are the words spoken by Don Pedro in Act II, scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing (1598-1599). The whole comedy revolves around amusing spoken misunderstandings and the clear understanding that, once revealed, the reality is more important than all else.
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby represented the United Kingdom at the London Design Biennale 2016. Working with the Victoria & Albert Museum, they created an installation responding to the Biennale theme “Utopia by Design”. V&A curator Victoria Broackes explained that, by going beyond linear time, Forecast suggests a utopia that is not unreachable and can be achieved here and now.
The installation dominates the central courtyard of Somerset House and is 14 metres high, weighing approximately 7.5 tons. Built by Litestructures with the assistance of Arup engineers, it combines steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. The name Forecast is a reference to the national obsession with the weather and the structure is reminiscent of a wind turbine and weathervane. The movement is activated when the wind blows at it or changes direction, giving rise to a simple kinetic structure that responds to the elements.
MINI Your Side of Town is part of the MINI Living programme by architect Asif Khan and also seen at Milan Design Week. In the London zone of Old Street, Shoreditch, Khan has created what he, translating directly from the Japanese shinrin yoku, calls forest bathing spaces in which to absorb, via the senses, the forest atmosphere, smells, sounds and even the ground beneath your feet.
Khan has created three different spaces to reactivate the frenzy of modern society. Basically, the three spaces reflect our private surroundings, where we relax, meet friends or work. Inside, the three structures offer a chance to sit down, chat or work – with a huge number of plants separating public spaces from private ones as we normally introduce plants to make a space feel more our own. At times. In this installation, the plants seen from outside look like people.
The three spaces identified are Connect, where you can meet people spontaneously in a narrow and long space with plants on both sides and two long benches to sit on. It is a bit like an old tram but surrounded by plants “al fresco” (the ceiling above the plants is open).
The second space, Create, is a sort of island for creation or production. It is markedly wider than the previous space and formed of large steps surrounded by plants. Although the first two convey a sense of being anchored to the ground and so “solid”, by contrast the third space – Relax – instils a feeling of detachment from reality, in a structure raised on four pilotis. The space is very high with two seats and all the rest given over to plants, favouring a sense of alienation.