The unveiling of the Claridge’s Christmas tree has traditionally heralded the start of London’s festive season, not least because of the illustrious roster of designers who have headlined the Mayfair hotel’s installations. For 2016, it is designers (and long-time friends of the hotel) Sir Jony Ive and Marc Newson who have taken up the challenge of reinterpreting the tree.
The pair, who collaborated with British set designer Michael Howells on the project, explain, ‘Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognising our excitement about the future and things to come.’ This year’s installation is suitably forward-looking with nary a bauble or thread of tinsel to be seen, instead exploring the relationship between nature and technology.
Transforming Claridge’s grand lobby, a series of vast four metre-high light boxes line the walls, illuminating black-and-white images of snow-capped silver birch trees. Against this immersive backdrop, towering cast models of Scots pine rise to a canopy of natural green pine.
‘There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology,’ Ive and Newson say. A soundscape recalls acoustics from a forest, starting with a dawn chorus and including owls, nightingales, sparrows and foxes. Specially choreographed lighting – synced to the soundscape – creates a dappled effect in the space, continuously cycling through sunrise to a celestial night scene.
A smaller sapling tree grows among the ‘forest’, playing with proportions – but it’s also a symbol of the future, they say. In a year as tumultuous as this one has been, Claridge's festive installation ushers in some much needed calm and optimism.