'It's not as glamorous as designing furniture for the domestic environment,' says London designer Fabien Cappello, surveying his new collection of street furniture currently on show at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston, 'but it's so rewarding when you see people making use of it and interacting with it as part of their everyday lives.'
Cappello's new 'Streetscape' collection of public benches, bike racks, litter bins, planters and bollards is the result of an open brief set by the university gallery as part of its annual Design Fellowship. Rather than wanting to invent anything totally new, the ECAL- and RCA-educated designer set upon improving this typically anonymous and often overlooked area of design. 'A lot of the street furniture that is being produced now feels like it doesn't belong anywhere,' he explains, 'and it offers very little in the way of a design solution.'
Made from wood, concrete, cast aluminium and steel coated in discreet grey with punches of bright colour, the bold pieces reimagine existing archetypes. Two of the bollard designs can be used as stools, while the built-in table of the park bench can be used to rest coffee cups or an elbow, creating altogether more welcoming spaces that encourage people to stop and rest. 'A little bit of generosity needs to come back into the design of our cities,' warns Cappello, 'or else we're going to end up with such blunt and tasteless environments.'
Another important aspect for Cappello was that the pieces are, where possible, made in London, 'It was really important - being able to have that control, being able to produce without any shipments and to support local industry is priceless.'
Most impressively, Cappello has been working in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Kingston, taking his colourful prototypes from the gallery and onto the streets of Kingston, where they are currently being put to use alongside the town's permanent street furniture. With positive feedback from the public and town planners alike, it may not be too long before Cappello's pieces are part of every Londoner's daily commute.