Highlights from Clerkenwell Design Week 2016

London is alive with creative energy and it is sometimes hard to keep up with the sheer volume of exhibitions and fairs celebrating visual culture. This week saw Clerkenwell Design Week celebrate its seventh year. The three-day event in May sees international brands, individual designers, and emerging young artists exhibit their latest creations in one of London’s oldest neighbourhoods – creating a striking contrast between the local architecture, old churches and historic buildings and the contemporary design and installations on show. The festival may be a relative newcomer to the scene, yet it has grown substantially in size, confidence and personality.

You enter CDW through St John’s Gate, where this year London studio Flea Folly Architects partnered with Hakwood to create an installation of stacked wood referencing the gate’s austere past. Along the route four glass-tile sculptures by Giles Miller Studio helped visitors navigate the fair.

CDW is as much about the products as the location, and one of the highlights was Icon’s House of Culture, an exhibition space dedicated to international brands and set up in the former Metropolitan Cold Stores in Smithfiled, now Fabric nightclub.

Here Stellar Works, the French/Japanese design brand with headquartered in Shanghai, showed its Valet Collection, first seen at Salone del Mobile in Milan. American designer David Rockwell collaborated with Stellar, interpreting the roots of the word valet for a series of fourteen beautifully crafted, unique furniture pieces that are relevant for contemporary living. We particularly like the clever shelving systems that offer combinations for book and vinyl storage, and a bar.

At EBB & Flow, Danish lighting designer Susanne Nielson with her passion for glass and textiles showed products based on a combination of British and Nordic designs. Elsewhere in Icon, the Scandinavian company NORR11 displayed its collection that aims to rethink classic designs for today with a strong focus on taking inspiration from the natural materials.

The British Collection offered an interesting line-up of local talent. Pluck, for instance, is a bespoke modern kitchen collection by 2MZ, a Brixton-based design studio. Here they have used traditional materials in a fresh way, the clutter-free environment allowing the clean lines and thoughtful application of colour to stand out.

Minale + Mann debuted The Workshop and the new Well Hung collection. An elegant, and a rather sexy, line of furniture that works with combining wood and metal including a cantilevered dining table in American walnut and copper, and the unfolding bureau that appears as if floating from the wall was inspired by the grand piano.

The dim lights and dark corridors The House of Detention, a former prison and very chilly on that day, offered an interesting space to exhibit Platform. Amongst the forty up-and-coming designers showing their work, we particularly liked the clever modular breadboard by Baker Street Boys who also showed their coffee table/stool designs that work with metal, wood and Perspex. And Rubertelli Design saw the London-based sculptor Stefano Rubertelli fuse the world of handmade and mass production to create striking, swirly lights that are almost pieces of art.

Over at Additions the display focused on interior products where Monica Bispo, a Brazilian born Italy based ceramic artist, offered her collection of ceramics. Inspired by artisanal craftsmanship, her pieces are both physically and visually handmade.

Tom Dixon has installed a large central chandelier in the main space of the beautiful seventeenth century church in Clerkenwell Green, as well as setting up a working environment and kitchen that will remain as permanent fixtures here.

Elsewhere, Sam Jacob Design created the 3D One Thing After Another for Sto Werkstatt. The concept aims to explore the dialogue between the digital and physical worlds. Much like a Russian Doll, the original garden shed structure is 3D scanned to create a larger digital copy for the outside with another tiny scaled copy housed inside.

Design Fields at Spa Field saw curated contemporary design on display including work by the main sponsor Renault. Here the carmaker’s focus was on the environment, displaying its futuristic EOLAB concept car that showcases over hundred sustainable innovations. Renault also collaborated with MA industrial design students at Central Saint Martins who were tasked to envisage the interior of a future autonomous car with some intriguing results.

The winning proposal Oura is a single wearable vehicle suit with a gesture-controlled, head-up display visor that uses virtual reality – the cabin is almost entirely stripped away so that the user can interact more closely with their environment as they travel.

Clerkenwell Design Week ran from 24-26 May 2016. To find out more about exhibiting or attending the 2017 fair visit here.

Read our reviews of previous Clerkenwell Design Week here

Nargess Banks

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Laurens van den Acker on Renault design

Replacing a long-term design chief is never easy. Patrick le Quement led Renault design for 22 years and the succession, in the period leading up to his retirement in 2009, was one of the most debated topics within the car design world.

His eventual successor Laurens van den Acker surprised many observers, not least because he was drafted in from outside the French company, from Mazda where he was design director from 2006.

Design Talks met the Dutch designer back in March at the Geneva Motor Show where he was introducing his latest concept cars the Captur and R-Space to discuss the changes he’s made since arriving at Renault, and his new ‘human’ design language.

Design Talks Many people were surprised that you left Mazda after just three years.

Laurens van den Acker Me too. One journalist told me it’s like you left your pregnant wife! Yes, it was too short frankly to build up a brand, to change direction and see it through. But when these opportunities come through you can’t always time them.

DT What was the attraction to move to Renault?

LvdA Patrick [le Quement] had to come up with two internal and one external candidate – somehow I bubbled to the top. And after nearly 15 years outside Europe, the chance to return and take on a challenge like Renault and follow in the footsteps of a design icon like Patrick was very hard to refuse.

DT Was it difficult to take over a design team from Patrick?

LvdA Yes and no. The challenge in Renault was enormous because here was a company that was willing to turn a new page, to start another period of history. So in that sense it was intimidating at first. But I know I’d found a very good design team, and that was key.

DT How important is Frenchness to Renault design?

LvdA Quite important, but you should never make that a goal, more a result – I don’t want it to be an objective. I don’t want to get into a fight amongst the three French brands – I want to make good Renaults.

DT Looking back, a lot of the projects you were involved with at Ford and previous to that Audi were notable for their very rational, ‘product design’ approach. Is that something you feel you might bring to Renault design?

LvdA They are definitely my roots sown in at Audi [from 1993-1996]. It was at that Bauhaus, Teutonic stage with the very geometric TT and the A6, and we definitely thought that was the future at the time.

It fitted well with Ford and trucks and sports utility vehicles but since then I’ve moved on and learnt to wear different hats. Now my approach is to start with what is the brand about, what are its values. You’ve seen that with Mazda where I changed my taste considerably.

DT How important is it for Renault to have a specific form language?

LvdA Renault is a human brand. There are car-centric performance brands, particularly German ones; there are planet-centric brands like Toyota that want to improve the world; then there are human-centric ones that clearly have the human at the centre.

Most French brands belong in this category. So we created a design language that communicates the human aspect of our brand, which is sensual. No hard lines but very soft shapes, warm because we’re Latin. Not cold Germans, not hot Italians but just in the middle, and simple because we’re a popular brand.

[Renault/Nissan boss] Carlos Ghosn said we are a marque populaire and this defines our design strategy.

DT How will this manifest itself in design?

LvdA We made a lifecycle, with ‘life’ in the centre. Life is about firstly falling in love, then you explore the world with your girlfriend, next you create a family, then you have to work and play with your kids, finally, if all goes well, you get wisdom.

Love could be our iconic vehicles or maybe a supercar; explore sports utility vehicles and crossovers; family is monospace; work is our utilitarian vehicles; play is RenaultSport, coupés and fun cars. Finally wisdom equates to electric vehicles, hybrids, or maybe a new durable vehicle.

DT How do the current concept cars represent these various stages?

LvdA We had to start with love, to get people to fall in love with us again – hence the DeZir concept shown at the Paris Show last autumn. Captur is our exploration concept and R-Space is our monospace stage.

Furthermore, our colour and trim designer came up with a colour sequence for this diagram, with red for love, orange for exploration, yellow, then green, blue, finally purple.

DT Is there a name for this new form of language?

LvdA This time we decided it’s not necessary to have a name – we didn’t know what kind of adventure we were starting here. It’s nice to keep things open because the challenge we were facing at the start was huge: a new design direction, a new identity and new design strategy.

Guest blogger Nick Hull
Nick Hull is a w
riter and vehicle design tutor at Coventry University.

Read more on the DeZir concept car and our interview with the then interior designer Fabio Filippini here.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Fabio Filippini on Renault’s interior design

Renault wants to create more intuitive interiors. The French marque would like to progress the interface for easy navigation and control. To achieve this Renault is translating some of the ways we interface with electronic consumer devices, yet retaining some automotive codes for the areas relating to driving, control and safety.

We caught up with head of interior design Fabio Filippini at the Paris studio to discover how.

Design Talks There seems to be a visible move towards interior design that is closely linked to the modern home and the latest electronic devices that are technologically advanced yet reduced in design.

Fabio Filippini I agree that more and more the interior aspect of the car will become important, and so there is this need for it to be as well designed and as functional as possible so that it becomes almost a second home.

DT Are car companies leading this movement towards a more innovative interface or is it consumer driven?

FF Neither. It is more a synergy between the advanced studios and consumer choice.

This is a global evolution and something we see as a worldwide trend. As people spend more time in their cars they expect their cars to be secure and to cocoon them, and to have complete connectivity with the environment. As car designers we need to evolve the car to accommodate these needs.

DT Do you see the car evolving to become more human as opposed to man more machine?

FF For Renault it is essential to have the human part, and the client, the human is always at the centre of our research. People shouldn’t be forced to adapt to cars – although this doesn’t mean that there will be home furniture design in the car.

DT But how do you inject humanity, yet maintain the mechanical aspect of driving?

FF There are strong automotive codes related to driving in the interior of the car: gearshifts and control buttons. Therefore only part of the car’s interface will take from electronic devices like the iPad where there is no physical connection apart from the touch screen.

However, we cannot mix these two areas up. The driver controls associated with the mechanical part of the car have to maintain their car codes. Eventually we will find new codes but we will arrive at this gradually.

Like other inventions, new codes also will take time to be adopted by the consumer.

DT What defines the modern code?

FF In the 20th century this was the car and in the 21st century it is consumer electronics – and like cars the references for consumer electronics are global ones.

It is also important to note that these automotive codes are especially important to customers in developing countries who like the idea of the car that existed in the 60s. Although these customers – especially those in India – are ahead of us when it comes to consumer electronics, they still expect traditional codes when it comes to their cars.

DT How do you translate the reduced design we see in modern personal electronic devices to cars?

FF I think it is more than reduced design. If you look at smart phones like the iPhone, it may seem minimalist in design, but it has strong presence. When you hold it, the weight and the feel of the real metal rim makes it a strong simple shape with the highest expression of material use.

We would like to adapt this physical aspect of touch, but touch that is easily understood which means moving away from the sci-fi controls design to a more reduced one.

DT How can car designers integrate these codes to make the car as modern as the iPad but maintain those essential automotive codes?

FF One main aspect is to be intuitive: to create an interface that is easy to control and relates to the way we interface with consumer gadgets, then retaining the auto codes for the areas relating to driving, control and safety.

DT The recent electric DeZir prototype – as shown at the Paris Motor Show in September 2009 – seems to express this philosophy perfectly. The interior is extremely minimalist, to the point that the central touch screen user interface is essentially all there is, as almost every other control is located on the steering wheel.

FF The car represents our manifesto to have a soft finished, protective space – an enveloping area, and then clear identified controls that are limited but high quality.

Inside the DeZir you have a big, soft expanse covered in white leather. Then in the driver area you have a clear instrument cluster and a touch screen unit that is tactile, whilst the driving elements are separated by their chrome finishing so as to be physical. Finally the red glossy finishing separates the driver from the passenger.

DT Do you see this trend expanding with the clean autonomous car of the future?

FF The customer will want to have strong control like they do with his personal electronic gadgets and this is something that has to be maintained even with the autonomous car.

The connectivity shouldn’t interfere with security. Therefore there has to be some kind of division between the driving part and the non-driver part.

DT Renault and partner Nissan are very active in developing a family of electric cars. What is your interior approach here?

FF With electric vehicles it will be a question of how we can offer more wellbeing in the car. EVs have silent engines therefore we will have to find ways of calming down cabin noise. We will have air filers controlling humidity, and generally working harder to stimulate the basic senses – touch, smell and sound.

DT Any thoughts on the future of the automobile?

FF The period of speed and power related to the car belongs to the 20th century. In the 21st century, when you can push a button and connect with Australia in a matter of seconds, speed is no longer necessarily connected with the automobile.

The car, therefore, will change to be a slow moving device, for looking outside and choosing what you want the car to do for you. The car will be symbolic of freedom of choice. The car, home and office will all be connected via your smart phone.

For us designers the task is to make simplicity out of complexity, but add emotion – a personalisation of emotion is where the future is.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read more on car interior design concepts: Frank Stephenson on interior trends, Jaguar’s quirky cabin designParis Motor Show: Car design trends.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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