Picture the scene, 20,000 square feet of mouldy concrete ceilings and unvarnished wooden floors. No.1 The Piazza in Covent Garden is a prestigious yet baron set of cubes: up lifts, down stairs, over steel grids and under London stock industrial arches. The Super Design exhibition, showcasing 21st century names like Zaha Hadid, side by side with veterans of the design scene such as Tom Dixon, has been, during its 6 days, a convergence of all that is good about contemporary aesthetic invention.
Ross Lovegrove, who has worked with Apple, Luis Vuitton and Sony, has come up trumps with his display of up to the minute synthetic structures. He has compressed, stretched and plasticized what looks like liquid in perpetual and airborne suspension, creating benches and artificial landscapes with the pristine high polish of an Anish Kapoor.
Tom Dixon’s subtle adaptation of former classics, namely his Pylon Armchair, looks at space in a completely different way. His works are three-dimensional nets, rough and welded, which grow and connect to fill the space with an isometric metal structure akin to something from a typical episode of Red Dwarf. Other aspects of aesthetic design have also been incorporated, from gargantuan mirror-mosaic spoons to apocalyptic ebony wardrobes inlaid with stylised ‘bird’s eye’ maple skeletons, cooling towers and gas masks.
All of these objects are enlivened by the spaces they occupy in the exhibition. Around a Zaha Hadid spaceship of a chest-of-drawers you can see the peeling paint of walls and Victorian metal down-pipes. Indeed, many pieces reflect this grainy exhibition space, as well as motley collections of workmen’s high-wattage lamps, within their luscious surfaces.
The overriding theme of the exhibition was one of testing computerised and mechanical processes to their limit. While not every piece could fit in the average semi-detached with cream carpets and a couple of dogs, there is no doubt that Super Design has shown the beauty of things to come, and the ever-growing possibilities of our time’s space-age aesthetic.