Sound and Vision

BAO BAO ISSEY MIYAKE creates a multi-sensory event for London Design Week

Interlocking triangles flex and tesselate, out of flatness, three-dimensions are formed. Launched in 2010, BAO BAO ISSEY MIYAKE’s bags were created under the theme “shapes made by chance”. Comprised of versatile geometric triangles, the bags can be warped and transformed, their design lending itself to playful experimentation, and at the same time, everyday practical use.

Furthering this flexibility and illustrating its design innovation, the brand will be holding an interactive event during this year’s London Design Festival: BAO BAO VOICE. Visitors will be encouraged to interact with the structures and textures of the bags that are linked to a sound system, allowing them to play them as if they were an instrument. In turn, the generated melody will correspond to projections within the space so that tactile, sonic and visual stimulation overlaps.

The multi-sensory event is a fitting homage to Issey Miyake himself, the iconic Japanese fashion designer best known for his technology-driven clothing designs and fragrances, as well as founding the Miyake Design Studio.

In addition to a pop-up shop selling the new A/W 2019 collection, the event will also house an installation of over 100 bags that demonstrate the entire range’s colour spectrum, forming a “kaleidoscopic rainbow”.   

BAO BAO VOICE takes place at Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EY from 17th – 23rd September 2019

On Repeat: Universal Design Studio

Port talks work and design – and makes sushi – with co-director of Universal Design, Hannah Carter Owers, at the studio’s LDF pavilion

For this year’s London Design Festival, Universal Design Studio – the interiors and architecture practice founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby – have erected a large, simple wooden structure in the heart of Shoreditch. Host to a series of events inspired by the theme of ‘On Repeat’, the pavilion aims to explore ways in which visual and physical repetition can induce a state of mind known as ‘open awareness’; a form of attention achieved by the repetition of manual tasks which allow the mind to wander and creative thinking to flourish. It’s an idea that has been extended to the construction of the pavilion itself – with the ceiling being progressively decorated by hundreds of paper forms that are made by visitors over the course of the festival.

Established in 2001 in response to the demand for Barber Osgerby’s unique use of material details and aesthetic in an interiors and architectural context, the Universal Design Studio has been commissioned by clients ranging from Google, Virgin Atlantic and H&M to Frieze Art Fair and the British Library, and the pavilion for LDF comes as part of a wider project with working space provider, The Office Group.

During the first event held in the pavilion – a sushi-making workshop – Port sat down with Hannah Carter Owers, Universal’s co-director to discuss the company, the project for LDF and designing around the modern nature of work today.

How does Universal sit within the wider group of Barber and Osgerby companies?

As well as Barber Osgerby, there’s us and our new sister company, Map, who focus on industrial projects and work on a lot of R&D, and technical and digital projects. We’re all based round the corner from here, in Shoreditch, in a collection of interconnected studios, and although we operate as separate disciplines and businesses, culturally we are all very much in it together – we all socialise and eat together, our workshop and materials library are shared, and we can bring in people from the other companies to collaborate.

Where did the idea for the LDF pavilion come from?

We’ve been thinking about how we work, how work is changing and what people need to work better and be happier. Today no one checks in at 9 and leaves at 5, it follows you everywhere – I often check my emails at 10pm, for example. In a way, it’s nice to have that flexibility and be able to change your day to suit you, but on the other hand there’s no way to escape from it, it’s all-pervading.

We thought LDF would be a really good opportunity to foreground some of those ideas that we’ve been playing with. When you’re working on a big project you can get overloaded with practical considerations, and it’s nice to be able to explore the idea in a space like this – through the events and participation of the visitors.

How much of your work now is concerned with behaviour and how a space is used, as compared to how it looks?

At the beginning of many projects, we now do a lot of research into how people behave – for us that’s what’s interesting, how people interpret spaces. We obviously want to create something that looks nice, but that’s almost secondary compared to actually how a space is used. And I wonder if that’s because we are an architecture practice that has grown out of a furniture practice, that so much of what we do is about function driving form as a philosophy.

There’s so much talk about flexibility today, but what we’ve realised is that people are the flexible part. What you need to do as a designer is to create spaces that have variety and choice, that people can interpret their own way and build in moments where they can decompress. For most people working today, our jobs are so multi-faceted, so stop-start, that it is vital you have somewhere in your workspace to have some space and breathe.

On Repeat runs at Black & White Shoreditch, 74 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY, until 24th September. A full list of public events hosted at the pavilion – from pom pom making to breathing workshops – can be found here.

Collaborations: Barber and Osgerby

In an extract from their new monograph, released this week for London Design Festival, Barber and Osgerby reflect on four of their most iconic designs

It has been almost twenty-five years since we first met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and only a little less time since we began our studio together. Throughout this time, we have collaborated with many individuals, companies, organizations, specialists and manufacturers, but our most important collaboration has been with each other. People are sometimes bemused by our long-standing partnership, and the fact that we work together in a world that is so often defined by singular visions. However, we are collaborators by nature, and it is this working method that we have used successfully for all these years.

Loop Table, 1996
The story of the Loop Table is significant – it was the first piece of furniture that we designed together and initiated their collaboration with Isokon Plus. Resulting from an architectural project we were working on at the time, the initial concept was to create a table that incorporated some storage space. The Loop Table was the first new design to enter the Isokon range for over forty years, even prompting the launch of a new company, Isokon Plus.

De La Warr Pavilion Chair, 2007
The De La Warr Pavilion was a public building commissioned by the Ninth Earl De La Warr and designed by Erich Mendlesohn and Serge Chermaye. With original furniture designed by Alvar Aalto, the Pavilion was completed in 1935, subsequently becoming an icon of Modernist architecture. After years of neglect, the building underwent major restoration in 2005 with the intention of creating a contemporary arts gallery.

The De La Warr Pavilion Chair was commissioned to coincide with the building’s reopening. Somewhat inevitably, the structural columns of the building – particularly the tubular metal rails and ceiling panels – had an impact on the design, and in tribute to Aalto’s original furniture, the outdoor chairs were painted tomato-red.

Tip Ton, 2011
Unlike an office chair, the Tip Ton has no moving parts, but, when the sitter’s balance is shifted to the front, it tips forwards, straightening the pelvis and spine and improving circulation in the abdominal and back muscles. This feature resulted from in-depth research into ergonomics and physiognomy, and drew on established links between movement and learning.

Thirty prototypes were made during the chair’s two-year development with Vitra. While the mould used to produce the chairs weighed close to 20 tonnes, the chairs themselves were defined by a distinct lightness, due to them being manufactured in gas-injected plastic.

Tobi-Ishi, 2012
Designed as a functional and sculptural piece of furniture, the table’s concept was built around the idea of the large stepping stones, often found in Japanese gardens – the name refers specially to those ornamental stones, which represent balance and harmony. The table has a monumental appearance, which changes according to viewpoint. Departing from the tradition of tables with four legs or a pedestal, its form is simultaneously ancient and modern.

Barber Osgerby, Projects, published by Phaidon, is out now.