LiminalIrish design at the threshold


New York
May 15-18

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Louise Allen Irish Design 2015

By Louise Allen

The opportunity to juxtapose a diverse range of skills, materials, references and perspectives to enrich the design process and to trace their evolution over a period of time is an engaging proposition. Liminal provides the impetus and space for a series of design led collaborative relationships to emerge during Irish Design 2015.

By its nature, collaboration demands a level of trust and openness: there can be unknowns, surprises and unintended outcomes. We have selected and invited designers to work together with a purpose and a collective determination to create a narrative between their own creative process and one that is influenced by parameters of partnership, time and material.

Liminal intentionally sets out to challenge the norm, to present work that asks questions of design week audiences, and invites them into a collaborative conversation. The nascent design collaborations represented in Milan range across the breadth of the design spectrum. The projects vary significantly in their context, purpose and ambition. They range from future focused speculative works intended to be experimental in nature, to very significant commercially driven partnerships. Some such as Kelp, a collaboration between Designgoat and chef Katie Sanderson, are playful interventions that literally offer a ‘taste of Irish design’, with seaweed cured trout presented as a starter course served in specially designed vessels. The portable Calor Mini BBQ by Design Partners is a commercial venture with broad appeal; it speaks to multiple demographics from mobile urbanites with a taste for food and adventure to families who enjoy dining al fresco. The collaboration between Think & Son (designer Annie Atkins and writer Eoghan Nolan) and Seymours Irish Biscuits offers something sweet designed to narrate whimsical stories from Irish culture and tell some tall tales from our not too distant past.

Narrative and story telling is deeply embedded in Irish design and culture. Many compelling stories have emerged such as that of Mourne Textiles. In 1951, the Mourne Milano rug, designed by Gerd Hay-Edie, the founder of Mourne Textiles, was exhibited at the Triennale di Milano, as part of a room display with furniture by Robin Day, where it won the silver medal. This same rug along with hand woven Mourne Check and Mourne Mist furnishing fabrics designed in 1952 by Hay-Edie, has been brought back into production, it is being brought to Milan once again through a collaboration with Notion design studio, creating a subtle, nuanced harmony between furniture and furnishing.

Peter Sheehan and Cathal Loughnane are exhibiting the History Chair a fully resolved fusion of function, emotion, technology, human connection, mastery of materials and story, inspired by the striking sense of self that older people acquire through life experience, reflecting a history that is imbued as something precise and enduring. The emotional impact of remembering and reliving a defining moment in our lives is the basis of inspiration for their newest collaboration ibi. Designed as a precious and personal object, it allows an individual, through a simple gesture, to be immediately transported back to a time and a place. Ibi is presented alongside the exquisite glass Empire lighting range designed by Bickers and Rothschild.

Narrative is strongly reflected in the work of Patrick Stevenson Keating of Studio PSK who responds to conversations with journalist Fintan O’Toole on the speculative future of Ireland. The conversations around the theme of ‘Living’ relate to everyday subjects such as food, housing and leisure, all of which may be radically transformed through design led technological advancement. This messaging is implicit in the objects on display created using Mcor Technologies full-colour and eco-friendly 3D printers.

Design Partners ability to provide solutions across the spectrum of design disciplines from product to digital is evidenced in their range of products including the Le Cresuet ‘Activ-Ball’ wine opener. It is apt that Milan provides the venue for the unveiling of a new technology the result of a collaboration with Seed Labs that will revolutionise how we interact with our living and workspaces.

Navigating Ireland’s journey from the past to the future is reflected by the work of Zero-G whose project starting point is Ireland’s 1937 constitution. Over a period of months, Zero-G will map the evolution of Ireland’s legislative, judicial, executive and local governmental structures to create a nuanced and layered infographic that conveys complex data in a single view. The challenge of capturing and conveying information is the focus for Smarter Surfaces, who have developed a range of products that transform any wall into a whiteboard, a magnetic surface or a projector screen, and are proving very popular with architects and designers worldwide.

The Irish Design 2015 presence in Milan includes exclusive launches of new furniture ranges. The latest work by Snug is defined by simplicity, functionality and playfulness, while the working ethos of Designgoat is typified through collaborative projects that create experience. Showing the diversity of their approach to interdisciplinary design, they have worked with Garrett Pitcher to fuse his experience in fashion and branding with furniture design to create the Dyflin chair and magazine rack.

Perch Dynamic Solutions have worked collaboratively for a number of years with Thomas Montgomery, one of Ireland’s leading contemporary soft seating and upholstered furniture manufacturers, to realize Float. Based around the idea of encouraging and improving informal interactions for workers, the concept grew from observations of people working in small groups and individually. Float’s aesthetic is guided primarily by the spatial requirements of the dynamic human form and the subsequent angles of interaction when engaged in collaboration.

Working with Labofa, a Danish manufacturer specialising in the development and production of chairs and furniture for educational environments, Perch have developed RAY. The result of a research- led process that aims to reduce the interactive complexity of a chair enabling a high level of adjustability to create a new generation

of ergonomic school furniture, RAY Junior is an evolved concept, released in Milan for 2015. It is a demonstration of how to achieve flexible sitting, with effective height and angle adjustments on both chair and desk with almost no mechanisms, levers or complications. Just pure reductive, simplistic design.

The furniture of Claire Anne O’Brien is truly unique. It draws on Ireland’s material heritage and traditional techniques such as weaving, knotting and basketry to make playful investigations into structure and form using the unique properties of knit. O’Brien is developing concepts for a collaboration later in 2015 with Ceadogán Rugs whose work with ceramicist Andrew Ludick transforms the intricate nuances of his small scale ceramic pieces into dynamic textiles with a strong graphic signature. Ludick’s bold colourful ceramics provide contrast to the highly structured and pared back forms of Derek Wilson’s ceramic vessels which command a presence
all of their own.

Grafton Architects have a long relationship with Milan. Renowned for their design of the Luigi Bocconi University, their scale models for the design of UTEC in Lima, Peru display how the influence of visual language and materiality from Bocconi permeates new large scale projects. Their collaboration with Graphic Relief, who have developed the capability to produce extremely fine detail moulds to cast a variety of different materials, is in its infancy but has the potential to add an exciting layered and detailed dimension to their use of architectural building materials.

Moving from the public realm to the domestic interior, Studio AAD present Modern Irish Life a cabinet curated by them and designed by John McLaughlin Architects. The cabinet or dresser, has long been the backdrop to Irish life. Taking pride of place in the home, it facilitated a mixture of specific and general functions. The Cabinet of Modern Irish Life provides a window into contemporary Irish life and the design that binds it together.

Creative collaboration is a permanent work in progress. It is a collective process made and remade, revised and reiterated, reinterpreted and reimagined. Liminal is a laboratory to reveal this evolutionary process, presenting, archiving and transforming new design processes and products at a series of public events at design fairs across the globe.

We welcome your contributions to this journey.