Ilse Crawford judges Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022
London Design Medal laureate Ilse Crawford – part of the six-strong jury for the Judges’ Awards, the Wallpaper* Design Awards’ highest honours – on design for a better reality, and our worthy winners
As Ilse Crawford received the London Design Medal in September 2021, London Design Festival director Ben Evans pointed out that there was no better time to celebrate the British designer’s pioneering approach to wellbeing in a design context than the present, when the world craves connection, intimacy and nurturing. The jury citation mentioned interiors projects such as the 2017 Refettorio Felix at St Cuthbert’s community hall as examples of desiging with empathy and prioritising wellbeing.
Ilse Crawford: ‘Giving people a better reality’
A recurring phrase that Crawford uses to describe her interior design work is ‘giving people a better reality’. This is perfectly reflected in her current work for The Embassies, a Swiss company reshaping the idea of the retirement home with a disruptive concept that combines good design and intelligent living.
‘One of the things that’s very, very clear is that being lonely is one of the chief reasons that people decline,’ she observes. With that in mind, the project reprogrammes buildings near urban centres to build homes that offer a dignified, respectful point of view on ageing. The key, Crawford notes, ‘is to create communities that you would actually want to be in, that happen, by default, to work as a support system’.
The homes aim to become places for culture and purposeful engagement, based on independence, freedom, kindness and dignity (elements often lacking in old-age living structures). Equipped with greenery, workspaces and opportunities for learning, as well as street-facing elements that connect them with the local community, the locations are set to debut in the next few years. Particular care is placed on the aesthetic codes of the project: ‘[The spaces] need to be universal: great for younger people, great for older people. We’re not looking for an older person’s aesthetic, whatever that is. Because one of the things that is so strange is the typecasting of that age, as if we’re not all hurtling towards the same destination,’ she observes.
Judging the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022
As one of the judges for the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022, Crawford believes the point of an award is ‘to draw attention to the design that can be inspirational for the future. It’s about recognition for projects that might lead the way. And the time we’re in is probably less about awarding the past and more about looking at the outliers for the future.’
She found Designer of the Year nominees Objects of Common Interest particularly deserving by this metric. ‘They have what’s needed for the future: to start looking at design not as a noun, but as a verb, and [as] more integrated into our world, less attention seeking,’ she says.
She also admired Francis Kéré’s Slak education campus in Kenya. ‘The archetypal intelligence of that building was pretty great,’ she comments. ‘He has come up with a design that makes education attractive, that makes sustainable building attractive, and viable. A brilliant public building that uses traditional knowledge as well as the insights of termites to make a building for education where it is needed.’ §