Take an artist and take any material and combine them and you can create anything you like. This seemed to be the theme of the Surface Design Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington last week. Marble, stone, ceramic tiles, timber flooring and veneers, fabrics, rugs, glass, enamels, concrete, lighting, wallcoverings,……you name it, it is here. Perhaps it is summed up by the exhibition design company Onward Design with their slogan “We can print direct to any surface!.
The good side is the versatility and imagination that can be injected into modern materials, whether externally or internally; incorporating functionality like acoustic control; the bad side is that sustainability seems to be thrown to the winds as materials are extracted and engineered all over the world and then transported to wherever the projects are.
Is it a sustainable future for the UK, a country which could produce its own timber, to import veneers and structural timber from countries on the other side of the world? This was a show which seemed to exist in another parallel world, albeit the one nod to sustainability being green living walls from Scotscape and Bright Green.
Top prizes for the best exhibition stands go to Finsa, an international company which showed off its own timber-based products in the design of its own stand, including the Spanish Cyclowood bicycle with its timber chassis, and to Welsh artist Evan James with a scintillating beechwood structure, showing how art and architecture can successfully be combined, with James Latham a close third, incorporating the products which it produces as a timber company.
And, out of the box is Houzz, an online community and mobile app which connects clients with designers of small residential projects, interior design, landscape design and home improvements, something which the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) needs to improve, given the number of its members who work in these fields. Founded in 2009 and based in Palo Alto, California, Houzz indicates a way forward for clientsto find architects and designers.