Four Designers Reimagine the Home in London's Trafalgar Square

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By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
Four design teams create temporary spaces that toy with the concept of home in Trafalgar Square.

As part of the London Design Festival's annual Landmark Project, Airbnb commissioned four designers—Jasper Morrison,  Studioilse, Raw Edges, and Patternity—to create unique visions of home in Trafalgar Square. The installation featured four buildings of similar size with radically different exteriors and interiors, all playing off notions of identity and inventive design.

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As part of the London Design festival's annual Landmark Project, Airbnb commissioned four designers to create custom homes for Trafalgar Square.

Dwell spoke with Ilse Crawford, an interior designer and founder of Studioilse, about the project and her process.

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Taking the atypical location to heart, Jasper Morrison designed a home for a "pigeon fancier," complete with external perches and roosting boxes.

 

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The interior of Morrison's dwelling features his furniture designs, along with pigeon portraits and paraphernalia.

You mention the role Airbnb is having in changing attitudes and concepts of design.

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Morrison designed the simple interior around a character "dedicated to uncomplicated pleasures."

What I find interesting is the effect Airbnb has had on a wider, collective understanding of "home." We are innately fascinated by other people’s lives and ways of living. Not long ago, magazines were the chief portal through which we saw other people’s homes around the world. Airbnb has now literally unlocked doors all over the world, and we no longer have to be voyeurs. We can actually experience how other people live in their own homes. I think this has given people greater confidence to live in a way that suits them and not feel like we have to strive to live in an idealized, prescribed way.

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The home created by Patternity, the design duo comprised of Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham, plays with geometric shapes.

You also speak of the idea of public and private spaces blurring. Considering the location for this project in Trafalgar Square, how do you conceptualize the public/private spectrum?

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The home contains a trio of kaleidoscopes that create optical illusions.

It’s certainly true that what was once private is now public—think of social media for a start. In one way or another, we "share" almost everything today, and I think this means we want to feel at home everywhere now. With regards to our project at Trafalgar Square, one of the more public areas in London, we have challenged people to consider what the notion of home means to them. For sure the juxtaposition of private and public is powerfully played out in this setting, and I hope it will encourage people to engage. One of my favourite elements in our project is the question, "What does home mean to you?" that visitors can tweet and answer in real time and join the discussion.

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London-based design team Raw Edges created a home with an adjustable interior organizational system.

With such an open canvas, who do you envision as your audience and client for this kind of project? 

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The interior is meant to show how creative layouts can make the most of cramped urban spaces.

We responded to the location and the brief by trying to engage as many people as possible. Home is a very democratic concept and hence we wanted to cast our net as wide as we could. We wanted to create a sensory installation that engages visitors with sight, sound, smell, and touch—the hope is that people will connect to these and be triggered to think about their own experience and the concept of home. There are many elements that combine to create a multisensory experience. We have two projections on loop. One is a film of all the daily actions and rituals that take place in any home throughout the course of a day. The second is a stop motion slideshow of all the objects and "things" we touch and interact with in the course of a day. These run to a soundtrack, the sound of home, and are offset by a fragrance we have developed with London-based fragrance expert Azzi Glasser. The smell is nothing as clichéd as fresh baking or bed linen, it’s more about the layers of life in the materials of your home. We wanted to capture the smell of an old sofa, aging wooden floorboards, and extension cables.

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Shay Alkalay and Yael Mer of Raw Edges inside their creation. The interior boasts a movable archive system with three panels that can be opened and closed to reveal different rooms.

Your statements seem to speak to a much wider shift in how we see and share our space. How do you see this shift potentially changing and challenging the role of interior designers? 

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The Studioilse installation by Ilse Crawford is a multisensory experience showcasing the "layers of life" within somebody's home.

Interior design is not about rules. It’s about watching, listening, and asking questions to understand how people live, and then help them build their home according to their behavior, wants, and needs. It’s about making new realities that make sense. There is no right or wrong way to design your own home — it has to make sense for you and the way you live. And of course this changes constantly. Being able to experience other people’s lives through their homes is a wonderful, extensive source of inspiration for ideas large and small. But above all, for me, Airbnb gives people confidence to live how they wish and be proud of it. In many ways, it is an extension of the work of an interior designer, the better ones anyway. And of course, on a very practical level, there will be increased demand for spaces that can be easily shared.

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Crawford's design incorporates various audio-visual elements. "We had two projections on loop," she says. "One is a film of all the daily actions and rituals that take place in any home throughout the course of a day. The second is a stop motion slideshow of all the objects and 'things' we touch and interact with in the course of a day. These run to a soundtrack that captures the sound of home, and are offset by a fragrance we have developed with London-based fragrance expert Azzi Glasser. We wanted to capture the smell of an old sofa, aging wooden floorboards, and extension cables."

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"We wanted to create a sensory installation that engages visitors with sight, sound, smell and touch," Crawford says. "The hope is that people will connect to these and be triggered to think about their own experience and the concept of home."