CAMILLE WALALA

ZETTELER_Camille Walala_NOW Gallery_WALALA X PLAY_Photography by Charles Emerson_DSC9457.jpg

French-born, London-based pattern queen Camille Walala has created eye-catching street art, murals, homewares, fashion, accessories, and installations, all sporting her trademark vibrant digital prints. The textile design graduate collaborates with top global brands, from Converse to Nintendo, and is now the star of this month's London Design Festival 2017, designing key commission Villa Walala, a pop-up inflatable playscape guaranteed to brighten up your day!

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your LDF17 project Villa Walala?
Villa Walala is about creating the unexpected. It's in an open square in Broadgate, a City area surrounded by big offices, where people meet up, have lunch and relax. I wanted to design a giant stress ball, something people could squeeze, that would take them by surprise. It's an inflatable, soft, flexible tutti-frutti space, with round shapes, and a very bright colour palette. There are also deckchairs on the grass in my style of pattern. When people take their usual route into work they're going to go, 'What the hell?' I want to create a reaction, to make people talk and smile.

What’s your design or style philosophy?
A lot of people call my style Tribal Pop. It’s bright, bold and happy! When I was younger I was influenced by the styles and objects that my parents brought into the family home. My dad, who is an architect, had quite an extension collection of Memphis pieces in his house, so for me the movement is interwoven with memories of my childhood. I was always surrounded by colours and beautiful pieces of design.

Which colours and patterns are you drawn to?
Much of my inspiration comes from growing up in the Eighties and the Memphis Movement. In 2008 I found a book about Memphis and was so excited turning the pages. This was design with an element of playfulness, and a sense of humour – I loved it. I use a lot of black and white with pastels, and block colours. I have also drawn my pattern inspiration from African tribes like the Ndebele, known for their geometric painted houses. I find them both full of joy.

ABOVE: Camille Walala with her graphic, patterned WALALA X PLAY project – proof stripes, and dots, never go out of fashion!
BELOW: Like a cool bouncy castle, the huge, inflatable 3D Villa Walala installation on Broadgate's Exchange Square is the hero commission for this week's London Design Festival, intended to be interactive and foster a sense of community

You started your studio in East London in 2009. What got you into design?
I came to London in my twenties to learn English and was working in restaurants. I like colour, putting colours together. I can't really draw so I did a printed textiles course at the University of Brighton. I still have a really childish drawing style, I can't even draw a flower!

How did you make the leap from textiles to wall art?
I still work on a small scale in terms of patterns, as you do with textiles, and then apply it to a bigger scale. I do a lot of sketching, and collage, and play around a bit. I don't like working on computers much. I prefer the playfulness of collage, and then finish pieces off on the computer when you need the measurements or precise colours.

ABOVE: Pattern, colour and reflective surfaces make for a merry maze at WALALA X PLAY, an interactive installation on until 24 September 2017 at NOW Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula

Tell us about current installation WALALA X PLAY at NOW Gallery on Greenwich Peninsula
When the gallery asked me to create an interactive installation I was petrified, as I'd only done textiles and wall art before. I love the fun fair and wanted to make people bring out their inner child – to get lost, like in a hall of mirrors – so we came up with a playful design. I simply wanted to give them a good time. I was worried that no one would come, but we had so many turn up we had to create ticketed time slots. Young and old people were telling me afterwards how happy it made them. I was so touched!

ABOVE: Walala x Better Bankside's 'Colourful Crossing' art work animated Southwark Street in South London for London Design Festival 2016; Creating pastel-pretty murals to brighten up North West London's Park Royal Centre for Mental Health with charity The Nightingale Project
BELOW: The iconic 2015 'Walala Dream Come True Building', on the corner of Great Eastern and Singer streets in Shoreditch, London, commissioned by TV post-production company Splice

Who are your design heroes?
Nathalie Du Pasquier [a founder member of Memphis, who now paints]. She doesn’t want to hear about the Memphis movement these days, as now she just wants to do something new. As an artist you have to please yourself first. I also love Sonia Delaunay, who emerged in the Twenties and Thirties, and was one of the first artists to do Art Deco and make it accessible to everyday life. Her colours are beautiful, and she designed costumes, ceramics, and textiles, making art you can enjoy in your home. I recently got the chance to see some of the earliest work by Op Artist Victor Vasarely, another hero, at Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
The bigger the better! I want to do a Vivid Sydney light projection on the Sydney Opera HouseI don’t want to move away from my current style but I’m interested in some rounder shapes. I’d like to push my creativity in terms of pattern and colour – although I'm not going to start doing flowers!

Where do you find inspiration?
I try not to look at things any more. You can accumulate too much information in your head. I prefer to do my own thing. I like to play with shapes. I go travelling a lot, and love taking pictures. I went to Mexico recently, checking out Luis Barragan's buildings and taking pictures of pattern, and the colours were so beautiful.

Where’s next on your travel wish list?
Vancouver for the Interior Design Show festival. I’m doing a talk there on 30 September. And then New York to see the Ettore Sottsass retrospective at The Met Breuer. I’m also going to Brixton in London to work on a mural for an after-school care facility for charity. The place has very bright lights and awful colours on the walls. I’m going to put that right! 

Have your worked on other social design projects?
I recently did a mural in a psychiatric hospital with pastel colours. It was nice to be a part of it. Being in a mental health institute that looked drab would make you feel even worse. It's depressing, like no one gives you any value. It was for a charity getting artists to paint these spaces and the patients really liked it. A little colour and pattern can create a warm feeling and make a big difference. I’d like to do a council estate one day – the uglier the better!

What’s your social media of choice?
I definitely like Instagram. It’s my best agent and I get a lot of my work through it. It offers so much possibility to be seen and discovered. When you share colourful stuff I've found people follow you more.
camillewalala.com

Villa Walala is at Broadgate's Exchange Square, 100 Liverpool Street, London EC2 from 16 to 24 September 2017 (7am to 9pm), behind Liverpool Street Station. Find WALALA X PLAY at NOW Gallery, The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 until 24 September 2017; book free ticketed 15-minute timed entry sessions in advance (10am to 7pm weekdays, 11am to 4pm weekends).

Pictures: Charles Emerson, Jenny Lewis

LOUISE OLSEN – Dinosaur Designs

Louise Olsen is one half of influential Sydney duo Dinosaur Designs, alongside artist partner Stephen Ormandy. Pioneers of using resin to create gorgeous homewares and jewellery, the pair takes inspiration from nature, art and the city they call home...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy or style?
I like to create forms that nurture people’s senses. I love the juxtaposition between materials. I like to humanise modern materials such as resin and metals.

What do each of you bring to the design process?
Stephen and I work independently on our own designs for Dinosaur Designs. We both have our own signature, design sensibility and understanding of resins that we have worked with for over 30 years now. 

TOP: Louise Olsen and her work/life partner Stephen Ormandy, co-founders of Sydney homewares and jewellery brand Dinosaur Designs
ABOVE RIGHT : Debut hardback book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs', published recently by Penguin Lantern, shares the studio's vision

Tell us about your new book The Art of Dinosaur Designs
Our book was a chance to open our studio doors and allow people to see behind the scenes of how Stephen and I design and create, and to discover some of the inspirations behind our pieces. We didn’t want to do a straightforward history, but we do cover some of the highlights of the past 30 years.

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I’m constantly inspired by nature. I love the way nature takes time to evolve and perfect. I find that when designing an object it takes time and there is a lovely flow that happens as one idea leads to another. 

ABOVE: Launched in October 2016, the duo's latest collection 'ColourBlock' features 'Totem' vases, pictured, alongside platters, plates and salt dishes in bold and soft primary hues. It also boasts sculptural jewellery, including bangles, earrings, rings, necklaces and neck cuffs, exploring colour blocking

What materials and colours are you currently drawn to?
At the moment I’m working on a collection inspired by sandstone, called 'Sand', launching in February 2017. I love all the variation of pigments in the sands from Central Australia to coastal beaches. Our recent 'ColourBlock' range played with solid hues, juxtaposing them, from cobalt blue and vivid coral red to refreshing accents of bright grass green, reminiscent of summer days.

How have art and nature influenced your practice?
We both have a passion for the world of art and nature as it offers never-ending change and beauty.

ABOVE: Sunrise at the iconic Sydney Opera House, one of Louise Olsen's favourite design destinations, by Danish architect Jørn Utzon

Is Sydney a big inspiration? And do you have any favourite local design hot spots?
We can’t help but be inspired by the ocean, the nature and the light of Sydney. For our favourite design spot it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House. We’re so lucky to have it – it’s an incredible icon. 

ABOVE: One of Olsen's influences is American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Pictured is his walnut wood and plate glass 'Coffee Table' (IN-50), 1944; The freeform 'Cloud Sofa and Ottoman', c 1948, in fabric, foam, wood and iron; the Sculpture Garden at The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York; A Noguchi installation at the museum

Who are your design heroes? Or which era, aesthetic or interior has influenced you the most?
Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Bertoia, Ray and Charles Eames and Noguchi are our design heroes; they were all artists who also designed furniture, ceramics, jewellery, sets and costumes for film and theatre. Every era has its moment of beauty. I tend to think more about the future. 

Where’s on your travel wish list and why?
I’d love to see more of India; it’s so unexpected and varied, and there’s so much ancient history that’s still alive that sits alongside contemporary life.

BELOW: Dinosaur Designs' curvy store in The Strand Melbourne, and a more linear look in their Sydney boutique in the historic Strand Arcade

You have shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York and London – any plans for future launches?
We’re currently working on a new store in Crosby Street in New York, which will be open early in 2017.

What social media do you use most?
Instagram – because of its wonderful visual stories.
dinosaurdesigns.com.au

Pictures: Rachel Kara (portrait); Heleena Trahanas (book cover); Bec Parsons ('ColourBlock' collection, styled by Mark Vassallo, model Duckie Thot); Sydney Opera House; The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York (Noguchi furniture); George Hirose (Sculpture Garden); Elizabeth Felicella (Noguchi installation view)

See our review section The Library for more on new book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs'

AMANDA LEVETE

Acclaimed UK architect Amanda Levete – head of AL_A studio, and formerly of Future Systems – has created this year's MPavilion for Melbourne. A futuristic take on a forest canopy, the temporary pavilion forms a welcoming glade for all-comers, hosting a programme of 300 spring/summer events. Inspired by 2015's theme 'Architecture of Wellbeing', it's the second in a series of four pavilions bringing cutting-edge architecture to the city, a dreamy space for a sun-kissed season. 

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your MPavilion?
One of the things about the Melbourne climate is ‘four seasons in one day’, and we responded to that with our MPavilion. For me the very nature of a pavilion is that of a bandstand. I took this literally, forgetting all about walls and designing something that creates a magical quality of life. We wanted to create a sensation of a tree canopy and play with sunlight, wind and rain. We used the canopy to filter out the harshest summer sun and aimed to add the noise of wind as it passes through.

How do you hope people will use and enjoy it?
Rooting the pavilion in its parkland setting, I want to create the sensation of a forest canopy in the heart of the city that gives shelter to a programme of events. Wouldn’t it be lovely if, as dusk is falling, there are kids lounging on beanbags while an actor reads them a bedtime story? Then they'll be taken home, falling asleep, in their buggies. That sort of communal storytelling is very powerful. It’s a slightly dreamy experience.

What can temporary pavilions bring to a city, and to an architect?
The brief for MPavilion 2015 is a great opportunity to design a structure that responds to its climate and landscape. I’m interested in exploiting the temporary nature of the pavilion form to produce a design that speaks in response to the weather. What really drew me to the pavilion commission is the opportunity to do things that you could never do with a building.

What were the material or technical challenges involved?
I wanted to use a material that is translucent, incredibly lightweight and seemingly very fragile. The construction industry is a fairly slow-moving beast, but Australia has some of the finest boat builders in the world. We worked with a yacht fabricator to employ their boundary-pushing technology, to create something that looks fragile but is actually really strong. The 43 translucent resin petals are reinforced with carbon fibre strands that span up to five metres and are only three millimetres thick. Supported on slender, four-metre-high carbon fibre columns, the structure is designed to sway in the wind, with lighting and a soundscape that activates at sunset.

What are your next projects?
There’s a new Southampton centre I’m creating for UK cancer care charity Maggie’s and our expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, is due to open in 2017. The Exhibition Road Building (above) will have a new entrance, a 1,500-square-metre gallery for temporary exhibitions and a courtyard all made out of porcelain.

What’s your design philosophy?
Architecture shouldn’t be about playing by the rules. It should be about challenging the brief you’re given, about breaking boundaries. Here is an artistic discipline that involves things like functionality, building codes and planning logistics; it combines everything I love. AL_A is more driven by conceptual thinking than formalism, so it’s less easy to identify an architectural style in what we do now. What binds all our projects together is a very rigorous, but intuitive, way of thinking.

Where do you get inspiration?
I love the fact that architecture is an artistic discipline with very real constraints. Size has never mattered to me. You could do something incredible in a piece of furniture. A temporary experience is almost more difficult than a permanent one. I’ve always functioned best when there’s something to push against. Whatever project I’m working on, I immerse myself in each new world. That might mean researching the culture or reading up on relevant literature. You come out of every project changed. You just learn so much.

What’s currently exciting you in design, architecture or style?
Australia is an exciting place for architecture because of the expansive landscape and what that allows for private houses. That genre has really exploded. I love the varying characteristics of different areas – for example in Melbourne, inner-north Fitzroy (first three images, above) as compared to St Kilda (above) with its proximity to the sea.

Which design era, building or interior has influenced you the most?
The Centre Pompidou in Paris (above, by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano) is one of my favourite buildings because conceptually it’s so groundbreaking. The Pompidou changed forever the way we look at museums by being fabulous and yet taking away the pomp. It also totally regenerated the area. Like the Sydney Opera House, it became a national icon recognised around the world. The value of it is incalculable. 
mpavilion.org

MPavilion is at Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, opposite NGV International, from 5 October 2015 to 7 February 2016. Entry is free with a café kiosk run by Three Thousand Thieves. For more on Amanda Levete's 25XDesign project check back with the Fizz this Wednesday 7 October.

Photo credits: Amanda Levete portrait copyright Peter Guenzel; MPavilion by John Gollings; V&A copyright AL_A; Sydney Opera House at Dawn courtesy of Sydney Opera House Trust; Centre Pompidou, Fitzroy and St Kilda by Sophie Davies.