London Trip – Part 2

Diana Memorial Fountain

In this second blog about our course trip to London, I will discuss some further examples of great design that we witnessed. The first of which is the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, designed by Gustafson Porter. I frustratingly cannot find any of the photos that I took at the fountain, so I will try to describe it as best I can.

A quick sketch of the fountain from a birds eye view

The fountain itself consists of a ‘river’ of water, flowing from the highest point (at the top and the middle of the sketch) in two directions before meeting again at the bottom of the instalment, where it is pumped back up to the high point. As the water flows around the fountain, it travels over a series of different features. The features vary from smooth, fast, sleek sections, to rough, rapid-like sections where the water is broken up and choppy. The design of the fountain aims to echo the life of Diana, and I believe the sensory changes that you experience as you travel around it are meant to represent the changes and challenges that she experienced in her life. The fountain has a circumference of about 150 meters, and as you walk around it you are subject to not only visual changes in the flow of water, but audible changes as well. It is this element of the design that I find so satisfying. The atmosphere that you can experience around each particular section of the fountain is quite different. The fountain was shaped out of granite using modern CNC machining technology, and arranged using traditional techniques, but the focus of this piece of design isn’t about the technology or the process required to make it, it is about creating an environment for people to visit, interact with, relax next to, and remember the life of Diana, and I think that it achieves that in a remarkable way.

Food: Bigger than the Plate

Whilst being nearby, we made a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, to see the exhibition “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate”. Food is an integral part of our lives, and as the opening plaque of the exhibition states: “We depend on food to survive, but much more than that.” Food, and our food rituals, are pillars of our cultures. We eat for pleasure, we eat to socialise, and we have three periods of the day that we dedicate to eating food. Basically, food is really important to us. In our modern world, some of our most prevalent issues are due to what and how we eat. If you take climate change for example, you can link our food practices as being a considerable factor toward it. We now eat food that is transported from all over the world, so that we can eat avocado and bananas and drink coffee and tea. We are now searching for alter our current eating habits, to find a more sustainable model. This exhibition brought together examples of designers and scientists challenging and questioning the way we do things. The exhibits varied from repurposing food waste, lab-grown food equivalents, and even city-based community farming ventures. I will share with you some of the exhibits that stood out to me.

‘Totomoxtle’ is a material made from corn. Mexico is home to over 60 different types of corn varieties, all with a different colour and look to them. In recent times, new industrial agriculture techniques have caused a steep drop in the variety of species, and hence local employment. Designer Fernando Laposse developed this new material as a way of using the natural colours and qualities of the unused corn varieties. He has provided villagers who farm these lost corn varieties an alternative method of income, and created a beautiful and unique material.

The photo on the right is of a silk-like material that has been made from waste citrus rinds. The designers of this product collected the waste, that would have been discarded, from juice manufacturers in Sicily. This is a perfect example of how great design can come from innovative use of by-products. You will have to take my word for it and believe that the material felt remarkably high quality, and without prior knowledge you would have had no idea of its origins.

With a growing movement away from eating animals and with people becoming more accustomed to eating ‘unnatural’ natural foods (by this I mean for example eating quorn instead of meat), we are starting to push the boundaries of what can be designed and grown in the lab.

This is the ‘Personal Food Computer.’ It creates an environment where you can monitor and adjust the climate inside the chamber to efficiently grow food, without the need for a field. This product has been designed as a tool aimed at the tech-savvy generation where they can experiment with how different conditions affect growth, with the hope of stimulating research into farming and how we can be hoping to create a more sustainable farming model for the future.

London Design Fair

Our last stop was the London Design Fair, in the Old Truman Brewery. The fair is an exhibition of designers and makers from all over the world. There were some that I loved and some that I didn’t, but all were interesting to see.

“Have nothing in your houses unless you know it to be useful, or believe it to be beautiful”

William Morris

I like this quote as for me it is a reminder of why people like things, and why they might want to buy something. When you design something, 99% of the time it is to be bought. Is the product useful, and is it beautiful? In an ideal world, and for something to be potentially considered ‘great’ it could be both. That isn’t to say however, that if something isn’t useful it can’t be great design, but I do think that design should have a purpose. That purpose could be to do a job, carry out a function, induce a feeling or an emotion, or even just to look nice in its surroundings.

Below are some designs that took my eye while at the design fair, potentially because they fit my criteria of both form and function fulfilling expectations.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more to come.

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