WINNER: DESIGNER OF THE YEAR 2023
India Mahdavi is Wallpaper* Designer of the Year 2023.
Perhaps India Mahdavi’s most iconic interior, The Gallery at Sketch got a makeover earlier this year. The French-Iranian architect transformed the candy pink paradise she created with David Shrigley in 2014 into a more subdued space, in collaboration with artist Yinka Shonibare and with contributions from African craftspeople, who created unique objects and textiles for the interior.
The evolution of the Sketch interiors is a testament to Mahdavi’s ability to infuse her designs with colour and curves, but also her ability to build on an idea and transform her own work through collaboration.
Take the Bishop stool: originally conceived for New York private members club APT, its sculptural design in turned wood has since been interpreted in a multitude of colours, patterns and materials, from floral to ceramic and metal. In 2022, the stool was part of ‘Achromia' at Athens’ Carwan Gallery, which offered an overview of Mahdavi’s most iconic designs rendered in white marble, demonstrating her ability to twist her approach while maintaining her strong creative identity.
Colour is the starting point of Mahdavi’s designs (‘an expression of who I am’, she says), which, combined with the experience of a space or object and a sense of joie de vivre, forms the basis for all of her work. This approach is evident in her collaboration with Swedish company Svenskt Tenn. To pay tribute to Josef Frank’s legacy, she created an immersive interior for the Stockholm gallery: titled ‘Frankly Yours’, the project saw Mahdavi experimenting with the legacy of the brand, using iconic prints and objects, as well as new pewter pieces designed for the occasion.
‘I have always practised design at the crossroads of other disciplines such as scenography, film, decor, furniture, and product design, exploring as many opportunities that were given to me to design, decorate, remodel or reveal a space, creating new experiences, embellishing life,’ she says in the foreword of her monograph, which came out in 2021. ‘But if there is a common denominator to all my projects, it’s the necessity of creating a sense of joy, a joie de vivre that I like to convey by using the primary colours of my emotions to listen, to understand, to feel, to respond to an environment.’
‘India's vibrant work challenges its context each time while maintaining a personal identity without repetition,’ says Eleni Petaloti, one half of Objects of Common Interest, who helped judge the Wallpaper* Design Awards this year as well as being nominated as Designers of the Year in 2022.
‘India Mahdavi is somebody I've always admired so much,’ added fellow judge Julianne Moore. ‘Her use of colour, which is way out of my grasp, is just extraordinary. I wish I was as brave as India Mahdavi.’
‘Yinka Ilori: Parable of Happiness’, the British Nigerian designer’s first major museum display (15 September 2022 – 25 June 2023, at London’s Design Museum), charts his journey through furniture, graphic design and architecture. The display comes at a particularly exciting time for Ilori, who this year was tasked with redesigning the afternoon tea experience at the Bulgari Hotel as well as creating a new playground in east London – two projects that show his playful approach across different environments. Ilori was also aptly nominated cognac house Courvoisier’s Ambassador of Joy, creating an installation that showed in New York, Johannesburg and London with more activities planned for 2023, and created his first permanent installation in Berlin, a pavilion titled ‘Filtered Rays’ that explores the relationship between light and colour. He also unveiled his new studio, a space imbued with his signature colourful compositions. ‘The colours are very joyful and really help set the tone for the day,’ he tells us. ‘I've used them to create a really positive, happy environment. I hope that it gives everyone in the office time to dream and imagine.’
yinkailori.com (opens in new tab)
American designer Stephen Burks has been a pioneering force on the international design circuit since he first established his studio in 1997. Known for his trademark style of uniting industrial design with aspects of handcraft, Burks has forged a path for other American designers to follow, while establishing his own distinctive creative signature. No stranger to working with global manufacturers like Cappellini, Dedon, Missoni and Roche Bobois, Burks is particularly successful in his embrace of cultural diversity, be it supporting craftspeople from around the globe or drawing from his own experience as a Black American designer. Burks’ pioneering point of view is currently being celebrated at the High Museum in Atlanta – his first major institutional show in over a decade (until 5 March 2023). The Brooklyn-based designer also unveiled a colourful installation for the kitchen and bathroom fixture brand, Graff, in Chicago, showcasing its signature taps against an array of handcrafted textures and finishes. This is coupled with an ongoing collaboration with students of Berea College in Kentucky, titled ‘Crafting Diversity’ and sold exclusively at DWR, with full proceeds benefiting the college. These projects are testament to Burks’ ability to translate the value of human relationships into functional forms. Writer: Pei-Ru Keh
stephenburksmanmade.com (opens in new tab)
In 2022, Studiopepe debuted a collection with Italian furniture maker Visionnaire, inspired by the five senses and featuring tongue-like lamps as well as fringed mirrors inspired by alchemy. After a few conversations with studio founders Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, Wallpaper* commissioned the pair to work on a 2023 horoscope that marked our magazine’s first foray into astrology. Studiopepe’s ability to infuse their furniture designs with their personal interests – from astrology to anthropology and the history of objects – culminated in ‘Temenos’, their first collectible design collection presented at Milan Design Week 2022 in a dramatic installation in collaboration with Paris’ Galerie Philia. Further pieces by the duo this year have included furniture for long-term collaborators Tacchini and Baxter, a pop-up shop in Rome for Hermès, and lighting for Contardi.
studiopepedesign.it (opens in new tab)
Originally trained in metal art and design at Seoul’s Hongik University, Kwangho Lee created a few furniture pieces for his 2007 graduation show, which caught the attention of a number of design galleries, kickstarting his career in furniture design. A regular fixture of the collectible design circuit, in the past year Lee has expanded his scope working with brands to create functional furniture that includes the ‘AA’ bench for Finnish design brand Vaarnii, and the ‘Hunk’ chair and ‘Glyph’ tables for Swedish brand Hem, inspired by some of his earlier works. He has also worked with Korean marble producer Total Marble, creating a chair that features a marble marquetry technique featuring a knotted design – a nod to his ‘Obsession’ series defined by intricate woven patterns as the base for furniture and product designs. ‘The joy of making is central to explaining my work,’ he told Wallpaper* this year, as we discussed his collection for Hem. ‘The key effort has been to translate the handmade quality of my work into a larger scale of production. And I think that it’s been a unique challenge for me, trying to find this new way of working. This whole process has been just trying out new methods and seeing where each iteration takes us. I’m very excited to see how this goes.’
kwangholee.com (opens in new tab)
The winners of the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023 are revealed in the February 2023 issue, available from 5 January in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)
Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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