On January 11th The Design Museum announced the longlist for the fifth annual Designs of the Year Awards so I got myself down to one of my favourite gallery spaces on the beautiful Southbank to attend a very special viewing earlier this week. The awards are divided into seven carefully-chosen categories: Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport. Now, coming from a predominantly fashion angle and knowing full well that Sarah Burton’s wedding dress for Kate Middleton is nominated, I was whole-heartedly expecting to have a biased opinion on which design should win.
Whilst I can honestly say that the fashion that has been nominated is exceptional, there were many other things to grab my interest. Unfortunately I cannot, nor ever will, feign interest in the Kinect for Xbox 360, although I think I can see the appeal for my teenage brother. However, the 2012 Velodrome was something that I believe to be a design worthy of mention. The concept of the design revolves around the efficiency of the bicycle with a lightweight net of steel cables forming the curved roof and echoing the geometry of the track beneath. The track itself was made from pale Siberian wood and measured to millimetre-precision to enable, ‘the Lycra-clad gladiators to propel their carbon fibre machines to victory,’ according to nominator Sebastian Conran. With record-breaking conditions in mind, temperature can be fully controlled and after the games the Velodrome will be a fully-functioning cycle park for new generations of cyclists to reap its benefits for years to come.
Having spent a few of my formative years in Japan, One Thousand Paper Cranes for Japan was a design that really captured my imagination. When the disastrous tsunami hit early last year, millions of homes and lives were devastated and a group of designers wanted to show solidarity. There is an ancient Japanese fable that states anyone who demonstrates the patience to fold 1000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Subsequently a website was created to sell crane designs to download and make. Not only raising money for the tsunami appeal, the creators wanted the cranes put in a prominent place to inspire others to think about all those affected by the tragedy.
The furniture category has a tradition of being particularly strong in the relatively short history of this award and this year was no exception. Particularly eye-catching was Osso by Ronan and Erwan Bouroulle’s chair. Available in solid oak, ash or maple and formed of four slabs of wood, the simplicity of the design ensures the beauty of the wood is delicately displayed. Contrasting to the minimalism of the Osso, the Moon Rock Tables by Bethan Laura Wood show an intricate pattern inspired by the moon’s craters and the composition of the solar system. Constructed from an everyday material, plastic laminate and laid in concentric rings, Wood has taken a, ‘humble material’ and,’ elevated it here to a thing of beauty,’ according to nominator Caroline Roux. A recent graduate, Wood is ensuring her work already places her in the limited edition design market.
With my eye keenly trained on the fashion nominations, the one that stood out was Mary Katrantzou’s AW/11 collection who used her now trademark pattern combinations to, ‘evoke an over indulgence of the senses.’ Whilst the patterns impress, the designs themselves are never smothered by them and this is the genius of her work. Katrantzou has firmly established herself as one of the U.K’s most exciting young designers and with London Fashion Week just around the corner, she is now a must-see on the packed schedule of burgeoning talent.
British fashion in 2011 cannot be mentioned without the name McQueen coming into the conversation somehow. Firstly for the Savage Beauty exhibition, which was curated to honour the all too short, yet extraordinary contribution McQueen made to fashion. Secondly, for Sarah Burton’s impeccable transition into the shoes of her predecessor, which culminated last spring in her designing the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress. The stiff gauzy silk fabric used for the skirt contrasted with an exquisite delicate lace applique bodice, presenting a dress that respected the tradition of the occasion, summed up the personality of the Duchess and embraced contemporary British fashion, thus resulting in the dress being recognised as a triumph in design around the world.
To view these as well as all the other designs nominated for this prestigious prize, get down to the exciting Design Museum between 8th February and 15th July. The overall winner will be announced on 24th April.