Objects of Common Interest named Designers of the Year: Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022
Celebrate Wallpaper* Designers of the Year 2022 – Objects of Common Interest, founded by Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis – plus explore the shortlisted contenders
Objects of Common Interest
Athens- and New York-based architects and designers Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis have been on Wallpaper’s radar since they began collaborating in 2012. We included their architecture studio, LoT, in our 2014 Architects’ Directory (W*184), and have followed their work in smaller-scale design since they inaugurated Objects of Common Interest in 2015.
‘Objects of Common Interest started not with the idea to create a studio or commercial line, but as an exercise in small scale,’ Trampoukis told us in 2017. ‘It was an extension of working with architecture and making it more abstract,’ added Petaloti. ‘We are interested in volumes and how they interact, creating abstract shapes and elements that become objects.’
Over the past year, this mission has been brilliantly explored through multidisciplinary exhibitions and collections, and both in the virtual and physical worlds. They delved into the universe of Isamu Noguchi and his connections with their native Greece through an exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in New York, featuring objects inspired by the artist, as well as a digital portal expanding on his experiences in the US. They also went fully digital with Perfettooo!, a virtual exhibition platform curated by Maria Cristina Didero and Annalisa Rosso, for which they created imaginary spaces merging objects, collages, architecture, music and video.
Their signature aesthetic, featuring compositions of soft geometries, was applied to furniture collections for galleries including Copenhagen’s Etage Projects, Milan’s Nilufar and Athens’ Carwan. Not confined to still objects, they created ‘Doric Columns, Kinetic Object’ for Kvadrat Febrik, a pair of fabric-clad sculptures inspired by classical architecture.
’I love their capacity to use forms in an individual and coherent way,’ says Wallpaper* Design Awards judge Luca Guadagnino, who praises their ability to fill a space with objects, looking beyond their immediate function. They are ‘quiet yet impressive, intelligent yet delightful’, adds fellow judge Ilse Crawford, who cites their simple upholstered stools and benches for Dims as a great example of furniture that she’d use in her interiors projects. She also admires their respect for history (‘without being historic’) and the discreet nature of their work: ‘design that doesn’t have to shout to be outstanding’.
Bethan Laura Wood
One of the most exciting furniture launches of 2021, Bethan Laura Wood’s ‘Ornate’ collection for Nilufar gave us a good indication of the London-based designer’s capabilities. Created with Nilufar and in collaboration with four specialised companies (Alpi for wood veneer, Neal Feay for aluminium, Barbini for mirrors and long-term collaborator Pietro Viero for glass), the collection was inspired by the boudoir, kimonos, jewellery design and insects, and featured a colourful, detail-driven aesthetic that nodded to Wood’s historical and iconographic research, while being extremely contemporary. ‘Bethan has been able to respond amazingly to one of the hardest challenges for a creative: she renewed her techniques, the processes, the matters she used and the narrative she applied to each project,’ Nilufar founder Nina Yashar told us earlier this year. Further projects affirm Wood’s ability to adapt her richly chromatic, maximalist approach to a variety of media, from glass vases with Venini for the Cassina I Contemporanei collection, to an ever-expanding series of rock-inspired rugs for CC-Tapis, and a collaboration with Dior, for which she created an altar-like structure for the Miss Dior Perfume bottle.
Earlier this year, Hangzhou-based designer Mario Tsai was nominated by former Wallpaper* Designer of the Year (and Design Awards trophy creator) Nendo as a creative leader of the future for Wallpaper’s 25th Anniversary Issue ‘5x5’ project. ‘He is a designer who seems to go back to the “roots”, such as the process of making things, the principles of nature, and the laws of physics. It is like a scrap and build process with a completely different methodology. He has already been active across various fields, but I would love to see his architecture work some day,’ said Nendo founder Oki Sato. Tsai’s design work includes the self-produced ‘Mazha’ lighting series, characterised by modular illumination systems, and pieces for clients such as Danish furniture company Woud Design. His work extends beyond purely designing furniture and objects, as he serves as curator and creative director for Designew, a platform that promotes collaborations between young Chinese designers and local manufacturers to create pioneering design works. Tsai’s latest collaborative initiative includes the ‘Hardware Shop Project’, a pop-up in Shanghai in December 2021 featuring open-source functional design ideas created using everyday, discarded materials.
Over the past few years, the volume of exceptional designs produced by Danish-Italian duo GamFratesi has grown exponentially. In the past year alone, products created as a collaboration between husband-and-wife team Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi have included home and car fragrance diffusers for Acqua di Parma and Poltrona Frau, as well as a series of graphic leather screens for the Tolentino-based furniture company. Working between scales, they created palafitte-inspired glass vessels for the Luca Nichetto-curated ‘Empathic’ glass exhibition, and a nine-piece dinnerware collection for Royal Copenhagen, titled ‘Royal Creatures’ and featuring a whimsical interpretation of the classic blue and white Flora Danica patterns populated with birds, insects and sea creatures. More furniture designs include the ‘Lido’ and ‘Patio’ indoor and outdoor furniture collections for Minotti, and the ‘Violin’ chairs and ‘Flaneur’ sofa for Gubi, which explore iconic designs from the past while embracing contemporary visual codes.
Ini Archibong’s Pavilion of the African Diaspora was launched during the London Design Biennale in June 2021, and became a destination for debate, discussion and celebration during the month-long event (as well as being awarded the Best Design Medal). ‘We cannot continue to speak about culture and design without recognising how the African diaspora has contributed and influenced the creative industry. Black creativity has impacted every corner of the world,’ he told us ahead of the pavilion’s launch. This theme has been an ongoing preoccupation for Archibong, and was also part of his first solo gallery show, titled ‘Hierophany’, at New York’s Friedman Benda. Through four collections (including furniture, lighting and sculptural pieces), Archibong explores lifelong interests in global cultures, mathematics, philosophy, mythology and world religions, with a special focus on his own Nigerian ancestry. Most recently, four of his designs were part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Afrofuturist Period Room, entitled ‘Before Yesterday We Could Fly’. On the more commercial end of the spectrum, Archibong’s latest collaborations include a collection of chromatic wallpapers for Calico and a collection of chairs for Knoll: named ‘Iquo’, named after his grandmother and mother (it is also his daughter’s middle name), and featuring a series of feminine curves translated into an airy, durable design. The name, a note accompanying the collection explains, ‘means “powerful voice” and honours the legacy of the great women that both he and his daughter come from’.