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"Designers in Residence 2018: Dwelling" Review - The Design Museum

8 December 2018 - 24 March 2019

FREE entry


"Home for a new generation of designers"

This year’s Designers in Residence exhibition showcases a body of powerful works that reinvent the concept of ‘Dwelling’ in their own way. Each year, the Design Museum invites four designers to participate to the Designers in Residence programme. For seven months, designers work, collaborate and create a body of projects that responds to the theme ‘Dwelling’ and echoes to the world around them. Visitors are then invited to explore the result of the residency for free. Welcome to the home of a new generation of designers.

A small room on the top floor of the Design Museum is enough to display four emerging designers and make you experience four completely different environments. The exhibition space dedicated to the designers looks like a small house, with windows on each side and plants in the entry. Entering the space feels like entering a new futuristic dimension with space sounds coming from a mysterious door, iridescent posters hanged on the walls and bright neons illuminating the windows. The impression of diversity in the works echoes to the nature of the theme ‘Dwelling’. For most of us, dwelling represents where and how we live. However, as the curator Shasti Lowton highlights in the free publication given to the visitors, ‘dwelling’ can mean different things to different people.The four designers, Hester Buck, Ella Bulley, Legrand Jäger and Helga Schmid are from various design disciplines and have explored this theme in very different ways. The works are cleverly articulated and intertwined within each other, resulting in a homogenous and aesthetic space.

Hester Buck

The first work, Growing Common Land, is a piece by Hester Buck. Combining vegetation, herbariums, bins and a metal structure with photographies documenting her projects, the designer explores the green spaces of post-war social housing estate as a form of common ground within our cities. For this residency, Hester Buck worked with a social house estate in east London by setting up community gardens. This approach highlights the value of green spaces in the development of social infrastructure. The designer has develop a five-point manifesto that expands her work outside of the room by creating a trail of plants around the museum. Between architecture, performance and activism, Hester Buck transforms the way we see and use communal public space.

On the left of the exhibition space, a bright interior separated by patterned curtains displays strange shapes, symbols, and accessories. A short video and sheets explain to us how to decrypt these mysterious looking objects and shapes. As a material designer, Ella Bulley has worked on how objects reflects the concept ofdwelling. For her piece Inter-Patria, she worked on two interesting groups, Ghanaian expats living in the UK and repats, or expats returning to Ghana. This inspiration from her Ghanaian roots mixed with European aesthetics lead to the creation of new symbols, artefacts, and rituals. Ultimately, her work explores the processes of how expats and repats adapt to new dwelling places through material exploration. The designer wanted to create a new visual language expressing the layers of identity present within expats, repeats and the Ghanaian community. This work reflects how we wander through the different places, generating new narratives and new memories.

Ella Bulley. Image Credit: Sam Ha

Moving to the right of the exhibition space, we enter a new purified world, with green walls, a platform and a curtain covered by mysterious algorithm images. In this work called The Internet of Ears, design collective Legrand Jäger explore the interesting question of how our dwellings are becoming virtual, interconnected and hyperlinked spaces. Moreover, Legrand Jäger question the shift occurring with voice-controlled smart home devices. The graphics that cover the platform and curtain are inspired by the language of pending patents that anticipate newlisteningtechnologies for the home.By mixing the themes of communication and culture within our homes, Legrand Jäger address the deeper issues of ethics and social implications of how technology is used and how our conversation are listened.

The final space is probably the most immersive and breath-taking piece of the Designers in Residence exhibition. Circadian Dreams by Helga Schmid re-thinks the question of time, how we view its duration, how it defines us and how we use it. A subtle poster at the entrance of the space tells us to ‘Leave clock time and shoes outside’, as this piece wants to communicate the concept of Uchronia, which is a way of living unrestricted by society’s idea of time. The way Helga Schmid conveys this concept is outstanding. As we enter the space, we feel our bodies sink into the squishy floor, our eyes captivated by the neon lights and our ears absorbed by the space sounds. A circular bed dominates the center of the room. We are invited to lay down on the bed and to escape from our traditional concept of time. As the lights change from bright blue to intensive red to darkness, the atmosphere shifts. Twelve minutes insides the space is equivalent to twenty four hours. By fragmenting our sense of time and by using an interdisciplinary approach that combines design, sociology and chronobiology, Helga Schmid invites us to the future of the dwelling.

Helga Smid. Image credit: Kelly Spanou

This year’s Designers in Residence, with its theme focusing on ‘Dwelling’, provides us with an aesthetically pleasing (and Instagramable) experience. The exhibition shows colourful, playful and accessible works. Not only does the programme introduce emerging designers to the public, it also challenges us to question our understanding of the concept of ‘Dwelling’ and the concept of design in general. More than just a visual and immersive experience, Designers in Residence explores philosophical concepts and social issues and re-invents traditions in an imaginative, futuristic manner.

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