Clerkenwell Design Week

I have to say, I have mostly gone off furniture design. A lovely styled light fails to impress me nowadays.

It was full of all the standard things you’d expect. Sleek white and wooden chairs, dark masculine writing desks, lights made out of curved polypropylene… nothing much new.

The spaces in Clerkenwell are alright – not as special as the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. The converted prison called House of Detention was an exception, with underground arches. Lit up with warm lighting from below, the space wasn’t prison like at all. However the air was dank – for asthmatics like me, painful! If they install some ventilators then I might consider this a space worth booking in the future, but as it stands I wouldn’t recommend it.

A couple of designs stood out. There were a set of musical chairs that everyone had to sit on to play the complete song – each chair was an instrument or a beat.

Sometimes you have to talk to the designers to appreciate what they’ve designed. One man who studied at Bucks New Uni designed a paper light based on the wings of a creature from Greek mythology. That kind of thing makes the object much more desirable, since it has a story and seems to be rooted in history. It has gravity of meaning and is not just style. It was also painstakingly handmade. It’s a pity that all that was only conveyed through talking to the designer. He’d have got much more interest if he wrote a note about it somewhere.

The other highlight was my friend’s uncle’s company. It looked like boring office furniture. Sleek, hi-tec, shallow. I mistook their chairs for Herman Miller ones. Apparently they’ve been going as long as each other, but because one of Herman Miller’s chairs became a design classic, he’s the famous one and not them.

What impressed me was a couple of nifty designs downstairs. They had soundproofed some arches in the basement that they couldn’t knock down because it was holding up the road above. They had put a table and padded benches under most of the arches, and a sort of bed in one. When you step under the arch, suddenly the sound changes – someone’s voice talking in the main area of the room sounds thin and quiet. You can hear everything you say crisply. Lovely bit of engineering.

Then there were a couple of ideas for ergonomic office work – a computer attached to a treadmill so that instead of pacing the floor when you’re on the phone, you can walk on the treadmill and still have all your notes on your computer in front of you. Slightly superfluous, but it would make people feel pampered and healthy in the workplace. If you’re in a big rich company anyway. If a small company spent the money on that, I’m sure the employees would be annoyed. There was also a large spongy pad on the floor that you’re meant to stand on instead of sitting down at a desk. Of course they had an adjustable desk to go with that. I think the adjustable desk is the most ergonomically effective change that a workplace can make. Everyone is a different size, so it’s not fair really to have one size fits all approach to furniture that is for a single person to use for long periods of time.

Overall, I wasn’t thrilled at anything except meeting the editor of dezeen again, who used to be the editor of icon when I worked there. Marcus Fairs, I AM going to persuade you to come to my graduate show next year!!

Other things I took pictures of…


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