Another wonderful spectacle from London Design Festival took place this year, and I was fortunate enough to be able to take a look around this Tuesday. The V&A was the star of the show by far, in part thanks to the rest of the wonderful displays they have on show outside of the event.
The first thing everybody would have seen was the plywood exhibition which on the left, as soon as you would step into the museum's main entrance. Plywood might sound a bit boring but it's more than that light piece of wood which might crumble if punched by a small child. It's been at the forefront of design in around a century ago, and its versatility was well-shown in this exhibition.
This chair was first manufactured in 1935. It was made by a small factory in Finland which started manufacturing chairs in 1933 for general sale. It was designed by Finnish architect Alcar Aalto, and was (along with Aalto's other furniture designs) exported to the UK and US in large quantities.
This use of plywood is a result of designers and architects turning to plywood as one of a number of available modern materials in the 1920s. Plywood's industrial nature brought it to the attention of modernist designers in particular due to it being easily mass produced and due to the symbolism it held with the 'new machine age'. Moulded plywood furniture only really came into production widely following the second world war, but it left space for mass-experimentation among designers due to its thinness, flexibility, and strength by creating curved forms.
There was also a small display dedicated to the construction of the Trylon and Perisphere at New York's 1939 World Fair. This is a great example of how the invention of synthetic glues in the 30s changed the design world for future generations. It allowed for 'truly waterproof material for the first time', allowing for new waterproof plywood boards being specifically designed to fit the Trylon's metal frame. The two modernistic structures were designed to fit the fair's "The World of Tomorrow" theme by architects Wallace Harrison and J. Andre Fouilhoux. The Trylon stood 190 metres tall and the Trylon had a diameter of around 55 metres.
Es Devlin, one of the world's best known set designers, had her piece 'MagicBox' on display. It was created specifically for 2017's London Design Week by fusing 19th century theatrical optical illusion techniques with contemporary LED technology.
It's simply a three-foot plywood cube with peep holes on four faces. When someone looks into a peep hole, they see four very different worlds. She strings together genres she has been exploring over the past twenty years at extremities of scales. From locale fringe theatre to global stadium ceremony - she puts these miniature little worlds together with the use of scale models, mirrors, and iPads.
Flynn Talbot's Reflection Room was one of the stars of the show at the V&A, being the busiest exhibit every time I passed it. It's a coloured light experience which was designed for the V&A's Prince Consort Gallery. Talbot first visited the gallery before creating this piece, and in doing so, felt inspired by the architecture. His piece isn't meant to be the outstanding element of the exhibit, but it's meant to work with the interior of the architecture. He created a new experience using light to 'build a connection between people and place', whilst not taking it over.
Coming to the modern era, we saw the the shift of technological design incorporating the importance of aesthetic. Technological advances have transformed the character of appliances. With the new age bringing mass-produced pieces of technology into the realms of everyday use, manufacturers needed to make their products stand out.
"Highly technical and engineered appearances are intended to persuade us of a product's efficiency." Phones, for example, once unheard-of started to become seen in every home and workplace all over the Western world. All hold an obvious practical function, but their aesthetics have the ability to make them objects of desire regardless of how well they work. This movement was assisted in the rise of design and manufacturing technology due to designers being able to far better visualise their designs using software. This brought radical change to the appearance of products and how designers work.
One great example of this shift is the softly shaped 'Genie' telephone (article 7), which was made as part of a special range of telephones introduced by the Post Office in 1978. Their distinctive appearances allowed a wider range of consumer choice, while maintaining the policy that all telephones connected to the public network should be owned, installed, and maintained by the Post Office. This particular 1981 moulded plastic telephone was designed by A.P. Bresson.