June sees the return of Design Miami/ for its Basel edition, and along with it the fair’s Design at Large programme, which presents contemporary design in a new conceptual light. For its fourth iteration, the showcase is curated by Thom Browne – the first time a fashion designer has overseen the exhibition – who has put together a retrospective of statement desk designs from the last century, coupled with a choreographed performance focusing on young design students and their creative responses to the installation.

Browne’s installation will include design classics such as Charlotte Perriand’s curved wooden desk, and Pierre Paulin’s ‘CM141’ desk produced by Thonet in the 1950s, as well as iconic designs by Jean Prouvè and Charles and Ray Eames. Some designs on display challenge the traditional desk structure more than others; case in point Ron Arad’s steel ‘Two Legs and a Table’, or Pucci De Rossi’s postmodern marble, glass and wooden piece. 

‘I chose the desks purely based on their design importance in the last century,’ explains Browne, whose display also includes a large-scale installation plucked from his A/W 2014 runway set – a woodland tableau complete with a river and an array of animals clad in menswear fabrics. The 15 desks in the exhibition are displayed in a strict grid-like pattern facing the installation, forming an interesting juxtaposition with the more conceptual scene.

Browne notes, ‘I believe it is vital that as living designers in an increasingly interdisciplinary creative realm we revisit these significant movements and consider how each challenged the status quo and made way for innovation.’ To wit, this Basel exhibition is a fitting example of the multifaceted practice of the designer, who is celebrated for his thrilling fashion shows.

‘The concept of the installation is really taking the very classic idea of menswear fabrics and interpreting them into an autumn/winter scene,’ says Browne. ‘The desks are almost a separate installation which the artists will actually use during the performance so, for me, it will be a study as to how the two concepts play into each other.’

RELATED TOPICS: DESIGN MIAMI/ BASEL, DESIGN MIAMI, CHARLES AND RAY EAMES, RON ARAD, THOM BROWNE