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September 15, 2014

James Plumb: Mood Indigo

The Husband-and-Wife Creators Light Up London Design Festival

For James Russell and Hannah Plumb, the husband-and-wife team behind the subversive London design studio, James Plumb, inspiration comes in unexpected forms. Most recently, it took the shape of a destroyed, 19th-century leather Chesterfield sofa, whose beautiful patina and history gave way to a limited-edition collection and exhibition entitled, Burnished Indigo. Featuring a series of delicate lighting captured in today’s bespoke story by photographer and recent LCC graduate Benjamin Haywood, the new pieces will be unveiled this week as part of London Design Festival. Made with antique, hand-woven indigo textiles, the somber-hued fabric has been produced in China since the 12th century and is realized through a traditional process of dipping the cloth into indigo, followed by a catalyzing mix of egg white, ox or pig’s blood, and fermented fruit juices. “But what’s most interesting about the whole process perhaps is the burnishing,” says Russell. “The fabric is repeatedly bashed with a blunt object, and the repetition is what determines the level of sheen the textile has.” The lighting fixtures in Russell and Plum’s collection specifically used fabric repurposed from hand-pleated, burnished indigo skirts that were made in the 1950’s and 60’s. “Because each skirt is handmade, there is nothing symmetrical about them, so each one throws up its own little peculiarity and behaves differently,” says Russell. “It was about responding sensitively to how they were originally made and working in that same language, giving each lamp a unique identity.”

Burnished Indigo is exhibited at London Design Festival through to September 21.

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Spotlight

Light Years

An Exclusive Interview with Richard Meier as He Celebrates Half a Century of Architectural Innovation

Five decades of ambitious work has firmly established Richard Meier as a leading figure of contemporary American design. To celebrate the semi-centennial of the New York-based architect's practice, Taschen is publishing Meier, a comprehensive special edition of the Philip Jodidio-edited monograph that chronicles his entire body of work. Along with Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves and John Hejdukell, Meier was a member of the ‘New York Five,’ a controversial group of architects who believed in the purity of architectural modernism, as pioneered by the likes of Le Corbusier. He is responsible for such eminent buildings as the sprawling Getty Center in Los Angeles and Rome’s iconic Jubilee Church. His work shows a deep concern for the ways in which light informs space and has won him plaudits from the American Institute of Architects and the prestigious Pritzker Prize. 

How would you say your approach to architecture has changed over the past 50 years?
Richard Meier: The principles that guide the work in our office are rooted in timeless, classical design issues such as context, site, order, and the use of natural light. We are always interested and fascinated by the natural light of every place and how it then translates into light and open buildings.

Looking back on your body of work, do any projects stand out as favorites? Are there any with particular personal significance?
RM: I studied Architecture at Cornell University, and, after working in the offices of Davis Brody, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Marcel Breuer, I started my own practice in my studio apartment in New York City. A year later, in 1967, I received a commission to design the Smith House in Connecticut, a project that marked the beginning of my career. The opportunity to design and build the Smith House clarified my ideas about the making of space, and the house attracted a certain amount of attention that made it possible to take on additional projects.

Tell us about your fascination with the color white.
RM: As far as I am concerned, white is all colors. If I look through my office window, and there is a brightness to the sky, one appreciates the density of that blue sky against the whiteness in my office; one appreciates all the colors of nature more clearly, by looking at the way in which the whiteness sort of bounces that color all around us.

What do you think is most quintessentially American in your designs?
RM: 
Fundamentally, my meditations are on space, form and light. My goal is presence, not illusion. I pursue it with unrelenting vigor and believe that is the heart and soul of architecture. Openness and clarity are characteristics that represent American architecture at its best, and they are the principles that I hope to bring to every design endeavor.

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Spotlight

Norwegian Wood

Showcasing a New Wave of Design From the Land of the Fjords

“There’s something really emotive and tactile in the pieces he’s producing,” says Henrietta Thompson, curator of forthcoming showcase 100% Norway, of young Bergen-based designer Philipp von Hase. “This chair is ridiculously lovely to sit in, and because the wood is so smooth, you can't help but stroke it.” In today’s film we follow Von Hase as he builds his signature piece, the Trialog, a handcrafted wooden chair created to improve conversation by encouraging a more engaging form of body language. Von Hase apprenticed in his native Germany, and traveled through Portugal, Finland and Sweden for three years, honing his skills before settling in Norway. The designer is one of 10 to feature in the showcase at the London Design Festival this September. The exhibition will look to highlight the sense of creative freedom felt by Norway's designers, that makes it unlike other countries on the Scandinavian Peninsula which developed pronounced schools and movements during the 1950s and 60s: it was only in the 1990s that Norway truly embraced its indigenous design culture. “This young generation doesn’t have anything to prove,” says Thompson. “They don’t have to measure up against Alvar Aalto, or Arne Jacobsen or the like, so they can have a bit more fun and be a little more innovative.”

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