The Peckham Peace Wall

If you read my blog from last summer which talked about the London riots titled ‘Peckham is a real community‘, you’ll remember the photos of the ‘peace wall’. The wall of post-it notes put up by the local community sharing their thoughts on the riots and how it had affected Peckham.
The post-it notes were preserved and had been moved to the area outside of Peckham library in Peckham Square for a while but now they’ve been turned into a permanent ‘Peace Wall’.

Peckham Peace Wall by Louise Wilson

Every post-it note (ok, clearly the best have been selected) has been scanned in and turned into an organised wall called the ‘Peckham Peace Wall’. It was such a great surprise to come across the wall and be able to read the messages properly.

You can read about the project here:
Peckham Peace Wall by Garudio Studiage celebrates the wall of post-it notes of love and respect for the area which grew on Rye Lane following the disorder of last year, and launched on the 8th August 2012 to mark this one year anniversary.

Peckham Peace Wall up close photo by Louise Wilson

It’s amazing how a basic movement of messages has been transformed into a fantastic piece of art that brings the centre of Peckham to life.  It was even featured in Creative Review back in August.

I highly recommend going to have a look for yourself.

A Quiet Life – not your usual opera

Have you ever wondered how an opera may appear to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing? Considering an opera is ‘an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting‘ you would imagine that someone who cannot hear may choose a different activity or pass time.

Sarah Grange of Release the Hounds clearly wondered the same thing and after discovering the fascinating life of Annie Jump Cannon, the American Astronomer (1863-1941), decided to produce an opera for those that can hear, and those that cannot.

Annie was an astronomer who studied stars at Harvard University, USA. Sarah first read of Annie in a book called Big Bang, about astrophysics. Sarah’s ‘a closet astrophysics obsessive, and collects forgotten female heroes‘. This discovery matured into learning about sound art theory and Sarah started to really think about listening and what sound is. All of this came together to make an opera after bringing the idea to Stephen Bentley Klein who has a deaf daughter.

The opera ‘A Quiet Life‘ is about a crucial moment in Annie’s life when her mother dies and when she starts to lose her hearing. These moments are brought together as a multi-sensory opera set in America in 1894.

A Quiet Life opera

So, how do you put on an opera which people with hard of hearing can enjoy, you may ask?

The fantastically innovative team behind the opera had thought of everything. The opera was an experience. You were invited to move around, play, touch and be curious (but gentle!). There were no chairs to sit on.

photo by Louise

The cast were stood in a semi circle on chairs/boxes with a pianist, conductor and various other instrumental additions in the middle of the room and around the edges were experimental pieces to enjoy the music.

Placed around the room:

  • Was a large screen with the words projected onto it…
  • Were the singers used sign language in a beautifully choreographed manner to explain what they were singing…
  • Were buckets of water with speakers immersed in them produced ripple effects as the words were sung…
  • Was a plate with talcum powder sat on a speaker and shapes were formed through the vibrations…
  • Was a hanging speaker produced vibrations as you placed it against your chest to feel the music…
experimental pieces

water ripples, microphone, sign lanugage, talcum powder

People from the deaf community don’t get the opportunity to attend musical events and this is designed to include everyone.’ said one of the performers interviewed on the BBC.

It was such a unique piece to watch, listen to and take part in and incredibly thought provoking to think how someone with little hearing would experience it.  Sarah wanted to ‘make the piece accessible to people with hearing loss; captions in the piece, sign language and speakers set up in unusual ways‘ and she definitely achieved this. The words were wonderful, the music was beautiful, the singing fantastic – I highly recommend seeing the opera if you get a chance. I’m not sure if another date has been arranged so it may be a case of ‘watch this space’.

Riverside Studios

A Quiet Life was performed at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith on 11th and 12th August as part of the Tete-a-Tete Opera series. There’s a fantastic recording and interview on the Tete-a-Tete website.

Visiting the Heatherwick Studio exhibition at the V&A

The OpenIDEO web start-up challenge winners had a London meet up at the V&A museum last weekend for a curated tour of the Heatherwick Studio exhition. We were very lucky to be accompanied by Stefan Ritter, Designer at Heatherwick Studios who took us round his favourite pieces in the exhibition.

V&A exhibition web page

The exhibition contains just one room of artifacts but you could spend hours in there looking at the vast variety of designs. From bridges to handbags to Christmas cards and benches – the exhibition is very inspiring and shows how the studio are experimental and innovative with a range of materials.

The start of the exhibition is where you collect your guide – but not just any old guide – the studio wanted to visually show how much paper is often used for producing show guides.  Here they had 1 tonne of paper stacked up in different diameter rolls to look like pottery on a wheel. The visitor can winde a handle to release the paper strip, then rip it off at the correct point.

Exhibition guide installation

The playfullness of ‘creating’ your own guide is a great way for visitors to interact with the paper they are using. Should you take a guide at all and save on paper or should you take the guide with you with the understanding of how much paper you have taken?

Exhibition guideI thought it interesting to see how visitors then held their guide. Some rolled it up, others folded it neatly and some looped the paper to keep it uncreased.

Exhibition Guide open

The Extruded Bench
The first piece we visited was the extruded bench. Inspired by iBeam contruction, the designer wanted to celebrate the normally discarded end piece of material. When an iBeam is extruded through a tool, the end is irregular and distorted and therefore cut off. A tool was made by the studio and the aluminium pressed through. The result, a beautiful piece of art which creates a bench to be sat on. One end is clearly a highly polished bench while the edges of the end create an interesting, unusual, unpolished shape.

tool and bench drawing

The bench is therefore one piece of solid aluminium. The explanation of the piece said ‘we were interested in consorted forms that emerge as metal is squeezed through a die’ – exquisite!

extruded bench from Heatherwick website

The Rolling Bridge
The next piece we visited was the rolling bridge. It isn’t uncommon to see a bridge that opens up to allow traffic through but this design made a real feature of the folding mechanism. As the bridge lifts up, it rolls back on itself to finally end in a confined octagon. Apparently the rolling bridge can be seen in Canary Wharf…

rolling bridge

The London Bus
I hadn’t appreciated that Heatherwick Studio had designed the new London Route Master bus. It was great to see a cross section on the vehicle and understand about the inspiration for the design.

London Bus from Heatherwick websiteThe studio worked with bus drivers to discover what design changes would make the bus more appealing to them to drive and even had an enthusiastic driver in their studio throughout the process.  Apparently it is important for bus drivers to be able to see children and people misbehaving on the bus, therefore the curvature of the interior was designed accordingly.

Passenger flow and air flow were also very important to consider when designing the new bus.

Route Master

Aberystwyth Artists Studios
Heatherwick designed a low cost set of artists studios in Aberystwyth, Wales. A really unusual set of buildings with an intriguing shape made out of crinkled aluminium. The structures are made out of a wooden structure with insultation foam covered by aluminium. The jig that was designed to crinkle the aluminium (to give the material strength) was fascinating. Each piece needed to be pushed through the teeth on the jig to create the unusual shape.

Aberystwyth artist studios from Heatherwick website

Floor tiles
I really liked the floor tiles that Heatherwick had designed for a shopping centre in Hong Kong. The design aimed to allow light to pass through the floors but had to be suitable for people to walk across in a busy environment.

Each tile contains 50 sheets of glass (for health and safety regulations) and a top layer with a non-slip surface on it. The designers used the layered glass and non-slip surface as a feature to create a very eye catching pattern through out the tile.

floor tile

The Science Museum Material House
Material libraries can be a huge database of materials to search through and it can be hard to display materials effectively. The Science Museum commissioned Heatherwick to find an innovative way to display their materials and the result is fantastic.

The Material House layers the materials into a scultpure with each access to the different pieces.

Materials House from the Science Museum website

‘Although the sculpture bears no resemblance to a conventional house, it playfully invites the viewer to reflect on how these materials are used in everyday life, suggesting there are no boundaries to the versatility of materials. The vibrantly coloured curving layers of Materials House give a feast for the eye, hand and imagination.’ Science Museum website

Seed Cathedral
The last piece to feature from the exhibition (but definitely not the last at the exhibition!) was the Seed Cathedral, designed by a nine member conglomeration of British business and government resources directed by designer Thomas Heatherwick. It referenced the race to save seeds from round the world in banks, and housed 60,000 plant seeds at the end of acrylic rods, held in place by geometrically-cut holes with the rods inserted therein. WikiPedia

Seed Cathedral from the Heatherwick website

Each acrylic rod was held in a wood structure with a transparent end to allow light in and a seed holder at the other to show case seeds from around the world.

The exhibition is on until 30th September and I highly recommend a visit. A good hour will allow you to look at each piece on display but a couple of hours will allow you to properly absorb the beautiful pieces on show. The prototypes and models that accompany each piece really interested me. A finished product is always good to see but understanding the idea behind the product and seeing how it has developed from a concept really fascinates me.

I was unfamiliar with Heatherwick Studio work before I attended the exhibition – now I’m very impressed with the innovative use of materials, pushing of design boundaries and imagination that has gone into each project.

Group photo outside the exhibiton

Clerkenwell Design Week & the bamboo stylus!

The Clerkenwell Design Week 2012 was yet again, a very inspiring few days. The studios and showrooms in Clerkenwell opened their doors, there were talks and events, parties and a brilliant walking tour run by Creative Clerkenwell.

Clerkenwell Design Week 2012

The walking tour was with designer and historian Jane Young of London Kills Me and sponsored by wacom bamboo stylus, THE pen for sketching on the iPad. Jane took us all around Clerkenwell, pointing out buildings of significance, taking us past the new Goldsmith Centre, explaining the relevance of the Jerusalem Taverns in the area and allowing us time to sit and draw what we could see around us.

Creative Clerkenwell Drawing Tour

We stopped in the park behind St James Church, Clerkenwell Green to do some drawing and found a fabulous art installation titled ‘Spring Forest’ by the architect, Franceso Draisci. Made of scaffolding poles, red insulation foam and umbrellas, the installation provided a play ground for children, shade for those craving to get away from the sun and a colourful piece of art for the eye.

I just had to sketch it using my bamboo stylus and ‘paper 53‘ app on my iPad.

Spring Forest using the bamboo stylus

Then we discovered, sitting amongst the installation was the architect himself – what a great find and surprise!

Charlene talking to Francesco

Such a lovely couple of hours enjoying the May sunshine, meeting inspiring people, looking beyond my normal field of vision and learning new facts about Clerkenwell. Thanks Clerkenwell Design Week, Creative Clerkenwell and London Kills Me.

The Stylus and App
If you like drawing/sketching, enjoy using a tablet and haven’t tried using a sketching app yet, quick, download one and get hooked like I have! Not only does the App make drawings looks wonderful, it is really fun to use, easy to draw with and can be erased, changed in colour and given different finishes/textures. I use the Paper 53 App but there are plenty of others out there to try. The bamboo stylus is very elegant, lovely to hold and just works. The stylus tip is very sensitive and allows for different strokes to be made with a simple movement.

The future of 3D printing

3D printing has featured in the press recently and it is a very exciting subject. The Economist featured an article about how 3D printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing. It is incredible how such intricate products as medical implants are now being 3D printed instead of being cut out of a block of metal allowing products to be ‘additive’ instead of ‘subtractive’. This reduces the amount of waste material created and because economies of scale are now eliminated, costs and risk are lowered. There is no longer the need to produce hundreds of thousands of items to recover fixed costs.

A friend and industrial designer in California has a business designing ‘kick ass prosthetics‘ where he uses 3D printing to create limbs and braces for people with medical conditions. He designs products it has not been possible to make previously . It means that someone who has lost a leg can now have a prosthetic leg which is a mirror image of his other leg – the leg can then be customised and made to look ‘kick ass’.

3D printing
Scott has recently been featured in a number of newspapers and gave a really interesting lecture on the subject, titled The Future of 3D Printing.

He discusses the complex shapes that can be produced and what it means for the future of medical applications.

I love his comment about the scene from the film Fight Club when Ed Norton wakes up and looks around and realises that his life is a concoction of crap he’s bought from IKEA and that it is the same as what everyone else has causing him to have a social crisis and blow up Los Angeles. Life can be different – we are able to expand the boundaries of 3D printing and use it on a small scale production. Relating back to my point about ‘additive’ material production, 3D printing is also a very efficient way of working.

From what I have seen so far on the subject, this method of manufacturing not only has less impact on the environment than ‘subtractive’ manufacturing, but it is transforming the prosthetic limb industry and creating a change in the way we design medical applications!

I’m looking forward to seeing what is next in the world for 3D printing.