With a new edition of the London Design Festival comes a new selection of winners for the London Design Medal. Now in its ninth year, this accolade is an important step in recognising past, present and future talent in the city and beyond, and the four winners announced this morning mark an important celebration of London and its creative energy.
The British Land Celebration of Design, re-christened after the London developer’s involvement which started last year, pays tribute to Barber Osgerby, who won the Panerai Medal for their multidisciplinary, multi-skilled work as a partnership for the past 25 years. Legendary set designer (and once Wallpaper* Design Award Judge) Sir Ken Adam was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Medal, paying tribute to his work on legendary film sets and, as the jury explains, ‘someone who has been a leader in his field throughout his career.’ The other two awards were given to Concrete Canvas co-founders Peter Brewin and Will Crawford and Dutch designer Marjan Van Aubel, who respectively won the PCH Design Innovation and the Swarovski Emerging Talent awards.
The winning quartet forms a strong view of London design, and a stronger still argument in favour of a London-based arts education: Sir Ken Adam trained as an architect at the Bartlett School, while Barber Osgerby, the duo behind Concrete Canvas and Aubel all came out of the Royal College of Art at different times. ‘One of the reasons why we do these awards and the reason the whole festival exists,’ explains Festival director Ben Evans, ‘is to continue to position London as a leading design place, and the only reason that we are able to sustain that, and to continue to do that on an incredible basis, is through people coming here and choosing to be here.’
Barber Osgerby were chosen for the Medal because of the diversity of their work, which springs from their background in architecture but expands to a variety of furniture, product and interiors works – what Evans admiringly calls the ‘breadth and depth’ of their practice. The criteria of the Medal, he explains, is to recognise someone who has had a consistent and rich period of excellence in their career, and the British duo are a fitting example of that. ‘They are the most eminent designers who can turn their hand to pretty much any application of design and do it successfully,’ he argues. ‘Let's not underestimate how difficult that is, to be multi skilled in your design application; I think they are a very good example of that.’
This multi-skilled feature is well exemplified by the other winners as well. At just ten years of age, Concrete Canvas has contributed to revolutionise what concrete can do, and its two founders have stretched with ease the fields of its application. From civil Infrastructure and mining and petrochemical sectors to furniture objects, the material has proved incredibly from an application point of view and its creators have emerged as true business-minded innovators.
Dutch designer Marjan Van Aubel has similarly been able to do things with design that are innovative and brave. Her work, from the Current Table made of solar panels to the foam porcelain objects, is permeated by a mix of innovative ideas and thorough scientific research. Her work looks more into science and the impact of new inventions and technologies than into pure aesthetics, merging the two with nonchalance. ‘This is the most challenging of the categories,’ Evans explains, since the judges don’t have a lifetime of work or a wide experience to draw on. ‘We are trying to honor someone we have an instinctive view of their future.’ Van Aubel wowed the jury for her brave approach to design, her ability to combine design and scientific notions and most importantly, for the ideas. ‘She is very much a designer full of ideas,’ enthuses Evans, ‘and in my view, in the heart of every great design is a wonderful idea.’
The award, which will be celebrated this week at Canada House, celebrates the immense contribution the four designers have made, in different measures, to the quality of our lives. 'We experience design all day, every day, and we don't really think about it,' explains Evans. ‘You only notice it when it's really bad or really good, and all these people give us great pleasure, the design ideas they offered us are great moments, that's what makes life good.’