London Design Festival is now in full swing and we’ve been inundated with talent at every corner we turn – the streets of London are literally brimming with creative design. East London, as east London does, is hosting a plethora of design installations which address social sustainability and aim to provide important answers to urban design dilemmas. In our exploration of LDF’s presence in Shoreditch, we came across the MINI LIVING “Forests” installation designed by Asif Khan, in collaboration with MINI.
We were introduced to Asif Khan’s work earlier this year – his Summer House at the Serpentine Gallery was a beautiful addition to this summer’s Serpentine Architecture Programme. He then beat out BIG, amongst many other prolific architects in a bid to design the Museum of London with Stanton Williams at Smithfield market. To add to his impressive and diverse repertoire, these latest instalments are contemplative and winningly interactive.
MINI LIVING “Forests” explores three interpretations of “spaces between spaces”. They are each designed to encourage specific uses: relaxation, getting together or productivity. The design of the three spaces uses plants to improve city living; the city is, after all, an extension of our personal space.
Outside of our homes, there are already various sorts of places, third places, which provide important contact points in our modern society. They are places where we meet and relax, or places offering certain services – restaurants or cafes, effectively… At the London Design Festival, MINI and Asif Khan have put forward an alternative approach to third places as we currently know them, creating spaces which can be accessed by the public, used as desired by each visitor and tailored to the needs of our urban society.
“My response to the theme is inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin yoku’, which literally means ‘forest bathing’. It means every sense switches to absorb the forest atmosphere, what you hear, what you smell, even the feeling underfoot. On another level, we use plants as a tool to assert our personal space at its boundary with public space, whether on our desk at the office or at the perimeter of our home. The project brings these two ideas together for visitors to experience new sensations within the city.” -Asif Khan.
The three installations are located within walking distance of one another in Shoreditch, forming a network that visitors can explore and experience. Their clear material language creates a deliberate contrast to Shoreditch’s urban setting. They are all rectangular forms, with walls made from several layers of transparent, corrugated polycarbonate. The green of the plants shines through the walls and offers an early indication of the fascinating setting inside. From the inside, the materials of the walls construct a purposefully diffused connection with the outside world and, as a result, generate an intimate, private space amid the hustle and bustle beyond.
The three different rooms that make up the installation differ in both external size and intended usage. Inside as well, each installation greets the visitor with a unique landscape. The Connect Space is a place for meeting up and catching up – spontaneously or pre-planned. A large table forms the centrepiece of the room, which can be used as an evening dining area, for example. The plants both allow visitors to immerse themselves deeply in the forest ambience and play their part in an extremely intense communication experience.
The Create Space offers the best possible ambience in which to focus on work; it represents an island of creativity and productivity. The flexible arrangement of furnishings inside means the space can be used in a variety of ways. One wall reveals a terraced landscape, providing the ideal backdrop for pitches and presentations.
The Relax Space welcomes visitors with an abundance of plants. If offers space in which to take a step back, switch off from the hectic nature of everyday life and relax. Visitors enter via the underside of the installation. Once inside, a bench invites them to take a breather. The vertical space draws the eye upwards, prompting a change of perspective and an avenue for contemplation.
Asif Khan; asif-khan.com
London Design Festival; londondesignfestival.com