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RCA2020: One Designer’s View (Part Two)

Roc H Biel – Duo
The most brilliant ideas are always the simplest. Roc’s is to separate the screen and the electronics of the smartphone. Voice assistants will reduce our dependence on the visual screen. The electronic ‘pod’ can be attached to a pocket or belt, it can be transferred from one screen to another, and to a larger device such as a tablet. But what I love about Roc’s design is that he has shaped the electronic pod into a smooth shape, like a pebble. Like a kind of talisman, you can imagine developing a kind of emotional bond with. He refers to it as ‘kinship’. I think that is going to be an increasingly important factor in the future, as we seek out products that have a longer life and more personal meaning.

Luke Fuller – Repointing
Clay bricks have cultural meaning. As Luke points out, they are part of the foundation of urban society and feature in our everyday life. This series of pieces was developed from Luke’s research into the brick-making industry, paying homage to this ancient craft. Each piece is made by the same process but is inevitably unique. Each piece has a timeless quality –it could have been made two thousand years ago, or just yesterday. And each piece is at the same time humble and precious. These objects would be a joy to live with.

Jess Beige – Gathering of Things, Wax and People
Jess Beige’s work is, well, very human – hand made, imperfect, improvised. To me, it describes the urge to make something just to show that we are human. We are all people and we make things out of whatever is at hand. But the thing that we make acquires a kind of magic value, like this little machine.

Jiaxin Tang – Elsewhere
Jiaxin’s work is quiet, sensitive, soothing. Exclusively monochrome, it’s all about mark-making, texture and composition with a very satisfying aesthetic. I don’t know if this work was produced during the lockdown, but it would certainly have been a very therapeutic way of passing the weeks of isolation. Each work is a kind of bonsai landscape composed of pebble-like shapes. Jiaxin describes the works as artificial landscapes that originate from a secret space ‘elsewhere’.

William Field – Broughton-on-Boundary
I’ve long been perplexed by the vernacular; isn’t it sometimes simply a justification for bad architecture? Broughton-on-Boundary is a redevelopment scheme for Broughton-in-Furness, a small rural market village in Cumbria, made unique by its fringe condition: divided into two by the boundary of the Lake District National Park boundary. The project investigates the impact that the assumed vernacular within the Lake District, has on National Park planning and development. Separating what he describes as the ‘unvernacular’ from genuine vernacular, Williams’s scheme is modern, unsentimental and adventurous.

Shawn Adams – Plinths and Tapestry
This project presents a breathtakingly beautiful language of design made from discarded materials. Agbogbloshie in Ghana is one of the world’s largest electronic waste dumps. Here, young men and boys smash and burn electronic devices to salvage the metals inside them. They are known as ‘Burner Boys’. Shawn’s scheme proposes a series of raised plinths and canopies to provide areas for ceremonial rituals, religious practices and everyday activities, areas of respite from precarious lives. Shawn interprets the visual language of Ashanti umbrellas and gold weights using e-waste. Everything is intricate and precious. From the tapestry samples right up to the site plan, there is an exquisite jewel-like quality

Nacho Vilanova – Volta
I was drawn to ‘Volta’ by the sheer elegance of its lead image. As Nacho points out ‘Body acceptance is a challenge many face nowadays, both disabled and non-disabled individuals.’ This project, a prosthetic forearm and racquet for trans-radial amputees addresses the mechanical limitations of more traditional sports prosthetics, but just as importantly, Nacho talks about the aesthetics. His design reflects ‘the values associated with tennis such as elegance, quality, honesty, and sportsmanship.’ The product is simply stunning.

Adam McGowan – Whistle
Adam is showing a series of wall-mounted structures using timber, fixings and paint. During the lockdown, he has been looking at the circular shapes that relate to movement, activity, space and time. He refers to industrial machines, bicycle wheels, public architectural space, life cycles...all of them subject to stoppage or limited usage by COVID-19. Is ‘Whistle’ a reference to the silent lockdown school playground, the deserted sports field, the endless, unmarked hours of lockdown?

Ian Griffiths

Ian studied in Manchester at the time of the new wave music scene, which has been a lifelong influence. He studied Architecture initially, then Fashion, and was encouraged by his tutor, the legendary Ossie Clark, to apply to the Royal College of Art in 1985.

Of his design education, he says, ‘Manchester taught me about raw energy and creativity, but the RCA taught me how to channel that energy into making something useful. It’s where I developed my commitment to good design.’

Ian jokes that he has the shortest CV in the business. One of his first projects at the RCA was a competition organised by Max Mara. As a result of that, he joined the company as a designer upon graduating in 1987.

As Creative Director of Max Mara, he believes in fusing the brand’s luxurious appeal with a streetsmart sense of cool. He says, ‘over the 30 plus years I’ve been with the brand, I’ve got to know the Max Mara woman as if she were my best friend. I want the best for her.’
Ian divides his time between the company’s headquarters in Italy, London and Suffolk. His interests include contemporary art, architecture and gardening, and his most frequently used hashtag is #ilovemyjob.

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