by Dieneke Ferguson and Kostas Koutoupis
On September 12th 2014 and around 09:30am Sir John Sorrell welcomed us to the V&A’s press preview to kick off this year’s London Design Festival. After a short introductory speech we followed our group into the guided tour that took us through the museum to see the new installations for this year’s Festival.
It’s always nice to be among the first to catch a glimpse of what’s in store at the V&A.The museum itself is a maze of beautiful artefacts, showcasing a long history of amazing design and even if you’ve been there many times, it feels like there’s always something new to discover. This means that moving from one installation to another there’s always things to see from the museum’s permanent collection and this makes the guided tours even more enjoyable.
Our first stop brought us face to face with perhaps the most imposing of all installations of the tour. Double Space, a project by multi-disciplinary designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in conjunction with BMW, consisted of two immense revolving panels hanging over our heads like shining metal giants. Reflecting everything around them in the Raphael gallery, the panels gave the impression that space was actually expanding in real time and if you looked into them long enough you got the sensation that the entire hall was moving at their pace.
Leaving the Raphael Gallery behind, we headed to the museum’s garden. There we saw the Crest by Zaha Hadid Architects. A thin elliptical shell made from aluminium was arching over the pool of the V&A’s John Madejski garden. The interesting point of this design is how it managed to give its surrounding a completely new perspective. Bending over water, its reflection added to the arch creating the shape of an eye, when looked at from a certain angle.
Candela, named after the unit used to measure light intensity, was next on our list. In the centre of the dimly lit Tapestries Gallery, a revolving disc emanating patterns of phosphorescent light dominated the room. Candela’s 60 armatures where charged by the motion of its rotary machine giving off different, distinct patterns of light and then fading back into darkness. This project came to life through a collaboration of Office Panerai with a multi-disciplinary team consisting of product designer Felix de Pass, graphic designer Michael Montgomery and ceramicist Ian McIntyre.
Back into the light now we were gazing up the, seemingly endless Trajan’s Column. Standing next to its base, ceramicist James Rigler talked to us about his installation inspired by the column’s history and through a small hatch we had the chance to squeeze inside and take a look.
The V& A’s Tunnel Entrance was the setting for David David’s mural installation. 50m2 of wall space was covered with tiled ceramic panels filled with geometrical patterns bursting with colour. There was a definitive eastern touch to this installation, reminiscent of the distinctive art work one finds in the Middle East. The mural was based on an artwork by David Saunders, co-founder of David David, working with British made Johnson Tiles.
The collaboration of Michael Anastasiades and lighting specialists Flos was behind Ama, a lighting installation that resembled a luminous pearl necklace laid on the floor. Made up from consecutive pearl-shaped lights in circular formation, Ama was shining bright in the centre of the room while the team of designers did a terrific job in hiding its power source. This meant that no cords or cables could be seen leading to or from the installation which made Ama seem like an autonomous unit powering itself, an aspect that made this huge necklace of light even more impressing.
Paris-based designer Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert worked closely with leading glass specialist Vessel Gallery for his ‘Human Nature’ installation. The project was made possible through a first-time collaboration between Perrier-Jouet and the London Design Festival. Huge glass tubes in green, white and blue were stacked together and we had a chance to learn about the art of glass blowing, a challenging technique the designer was drawn to, as he explained, after visiting one of the oldest glass blowing factories in the world and seeing piles of tubes stacked up in its premises.
The V&A tour finished with a stop at “The Wish List”. Supported by Benchmark Furniture and the American Hardwood Export Councin (AHEC), the‘Wish List’ had 10 leading names in design commission one product they would love to have at home but could never find. 10 up-and-coming designers would then work closely with their commissioners to bring the ideas to life.
The result was a collection of beautiful wooden creations of different sizes from the stylish Tulipifera pencil sharpeners, commissioned by Norman Foster and designed with Norie Matsumoto, the Hole Chair, commissioned by Allen Jones and designed with Lola Lely to The Ladder that Likes the Wall, commissioned by Richard and Ab Rogers and designed with Xenia Moseley. An interesting take on a household object we treat as purely functional, this ladder seemed to be designed for some quality time with a pad for your books and a slot for your wine glasses on the sides.
Our curiosity and loud noises led us to the Disobedient Objects Exhibition. Not far from the museum’s entrance, the Disobedient Objects exhibition pays tribute to protest aesthetics, investigating how design transforms everyday objects into revolutionary artefacts. We couldn’t resist taking a picture of the Tiki Love Truck, a truly unique and bold 4×4.
At the V&A party we had the chance to taste delicious cocktails, admire the museum’s garden at night and saw what the beautiful statues of the permanent collection look like after hours with proper lighting.