The AJ Specification Live kitchen and bathrooms was one of the best lectures that I had attended. Interestingly on the programme, it says ‘kitchen’ singular and ‘bathrooms’ plural. But there was more than one kitchen presented. In fact I was so enthralled it was the first time I did not take any notes and the time went very quickly. With my fellow cartel* member, Lisa Harmey, we schlepped to Liverpool Street to a rooftop room in Wallacespace Studios in Artillery Street last night.
The speakers were Maria Cheung from Squire and Partners, Nate Kolbe from Superfusionlab and Gary Tynan from Studio 304. It was interesting to compare and contrast every designer’s rationale behind what they were and had been doing. For example the very corporate and commercial approach of Squire with oversized bathrooms and muted international hotel style palettes, the continuous and seamless almost spaceship-like surfaces of Nate’s projects bringing to mind Stanley Kubrick’s stage sets and the alternative and indie innovation of Studio 304’s designs –copper worktops, Japanese sunken baths and use of timber screening and techniques.
AJ editor Rob Wilson chaired the meeting. Was expecting to see actual kitchens and bathrooms but was impressed and surprised at the range of form, function, thought and consideration given to spaces that are generally budget eaters. The visuals were disappointingly small on Maria’s presentation when the blank sheet of slide was so huge. The others had visuals that were well-proportioned when viewed on screen. It was a very special treat because you do not normally get to see these firms or any firms talking about design. It was very enlightening to hear other designers designsplaining in designerese.
Choice of materials, textures and technology affect the way we assess a brief, not to mention the social pressures now of branding, identity and instagrammability (that must be a word) which Maria brought up during the Q&A. Choice of snacks could be better as the crostinis (green pesto, red pesto and black olive tapenade) were delicious and served on black slate tiles but a bit brittle, not that I have dentures, but others might. The bits of toast were crumbly and flew off in different directions which reminds one of the importance of the continuity of surfaces. When one designs, it is easy to forget that instant, daily, weekly, yearly maintenance is part of the sustainability of a product or design. I find it useful to think like a cleaner when I am designing kitchens and bathrooms. All the problems I have in my own home came about because I did not think like a cleaner.
Conclusion: Lisa and I also chatted to Nate about clients and estate agents and the constant conflict between commercial viability of projects and true artistic intent. I think it is really important to be inspired by these events and strive to break moulds, and to push artistic statements, otherwise there will be no art in this world, no culture, no history. Everybody will just be wrapped round in beige carpet and beige walls. It was good also to meet Rob Wilson. How often do you meet an architect who is also a writer? Unfortunately we did not get to talk to Gary Tynan of Studio 304 or Maria of Squire as we ran out of time. Thanks to AJ, Rob Wilson, and the speakers.
Caveat: all views are mine. Nobody paid me to say anything and I am saying it.
Cartel kɑːˈtɛl/ noun: an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition. The cartel mentioned consists of only three. The third member could not make it.