MARTYN THOMPSON

Prince st MT portrait 2 06.2016.jpg

Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)

LAVA

Chris Bosse is one third of architecture firm LAVA, an innovative practice based in Sydney, Berlin and Stuttgart. The trio’s global, multi-disciplinary portfolio ranges from a sports hostel in Germany to a UAE eco city and a sinuous exhibition space for 2016’s Sydney Design Festival.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your Sydney Design Festival exhibition design?
We designed the Powerhouse Museum exhibition ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’ (on until 25 June 2017), which was a digital dream come true. As a practice deeply entrenched in digital fabrication technologies, it was exciting to create an immersive space that provides room for storytelling and objects while being part of the story itself. Inspired by the exhibition content, our design explores the idea of a continuous line as a means to create a spatial continuum in a digital world, and to express the infinite possibilities of emerging digital data collection and manufacture. We used the latest technologies and CNC for fabrication, which were both time- and cost-effective.

ABOVE RIGHT: LAVA's Asia Pacific Director Chris Bosse
ABOVE: Futuristic exhibition design for 'Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital', part of the Sydney Design Festival at the Powerhouse Museum

ABOVE: LAVA co-founders Chris Bosse (Sydney), Alexander Rieck (Stuttgart) and Tobias Wallisser (Berlin)

What do the three of you bring to the party?
When LAVA was founded in 2007 the goal was to learn from the expertise of the three directors. Stuttgart-based Alexander Rieck brings knowledge of the working environments and building processes of the future, while Berlin-based Tobias Wallisser researches and teaches cutting-edge, digital planning technologies at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. I moved to Sydney in 2002 and my work is based on the computerised study of organic structure and resulting spatial conceptions. We offer a mobile, highly flexible network of specialist designers and collaborators across continents.

What's LAVA's design philosophy?
LAVA stands for Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, a laboratory for ideas tested and approved. The common thread is sustainable design – beautiful, efficient and contemporary, whether for an exhibition, a hotel or a whole city.

Our creative process incorporates mankind, nature and technology. Humans are at the centre, and we merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature to build a smarter, friendlier, more socially and environmentally responsible future. We use naturally evolving structural systems, such as snowflakes, spider’s webs and soap bubbles, for new building typologies – the geometries in nature generate both efficiency and beauty. By combining digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies we build more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

ABOVE: Bosse contributed to PTW Architects' startling Beijing Olympics Watercube; LAVA's winning design for the UAE's future eco-friendly Masdar city centre; KACST Headquarters in Riyadh, and verdant Berlin mixed-used development THE:SQUARE, are both under construction; A 2012 bid to build the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund in Bonn

Which projects are you most proud of? And what's up next? 
The National Swimming Centre in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. I was a key design member at PTW for the Watercube, which won the Atmosphere Award at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale. Another was winning the international competition to design the centre of the world’s first eco city Masdar in the UAE.

LAVA designs currently under construction include a new university master plan and headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; a youth sports hostel in Bayreuth, Germany; mixed-use developments in Berlin and Hangzhou, China; and a residential tower in Hanoi, plus 88 houses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

ABOVE: LAVA's design for the new Philips Lighting Headquarters in Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Sydney International Airport's sandstone-influenced regional duty free area, another 2016-completed project

We’ve also just completed a company headquarters and lighting showroom for Philips in The Netherlands, a regional duty free zone at Sydney International Airport inspired by the sandstone rock caves of Sydney Harbour, and a Japanese restaurant fit-out.

BELOW: Chris Bosse renovated his own sleekly organic Tivoli Terrace home in Sydney's inner-city Paddington in 2015

What drove the design of your own Sydney home?
Bringing the outside in was the priority in the 2015 renovation of Tivoli Terrace, a four-metre-wide terrace house, which links Victorian Sydney with the future of modern architecture. Every surface is a design element making a statement, and has more than one function like containing storage. New timber floors streamline the living areas, while sliding windows and timber screens open up to a courtyard and extend the space. Materiality was kept pale with natural wood and neutral colours, juxtaposed with iconic mid-century furniture and contemporary designer lighting which add 21st century cool.

ABOVE: A feasibility study for a Bionic Tower in Abu Dhabi, with an intelligent skin that responds to its environment; Featuring a shimmering façade of fins, Hangzhou's Zhejiang Gate Towers are under construction

Where do you get inspiration?
I start by going for a walk or swimming in the morning or at sunset – not only is it relaxing but that's also where I find ideas. You need oxygen running through your veins and you are completely enlightened. Going to work and sitting in front of a white sheet of paper is still the best moment, even if the sheet is a screen. A lot can get lost from idea to project and then realisation, and we try to diminish the gap.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
‘Intelligent’ architecture. It is not about the shape but about the intelligence of the system. The intelligence of the smallest unit results in the intelligence of the overall system. I envision a world where buildings are responsive to external influences such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar radiation; of networked building systems, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the architecture of the future new materials and technologies enable an adaptability, responsiveness, environmental awareness and strength not seen in conventional architecture. I practice these principles in projects from exhibition design in Sydney to villas in Vietnam.

ABOVE: Also under way is the Y-shaped Bayreuth Youth Hostel in Germany, sporting innovative forms and sustainable credentials

Who are your design heroes?
German architect Frei Otto’s soap bubble experiments for the Munich Olympic Stadium in the early Seventies are a great inspiration. Verner Panton’s iconic 'Panton Chair' anticipated the digital revolution by decades. And Antoni Gaudi, who designed buildings of unspeakable beauty and innovation, inspired by nature.

Where's on your travel wish list?
Snorkelling – being underwater – anywhere, from the Great Barrier Reef to Vanuatu and Malaysia. The coral reefs are the cities of the future where species coexist and thrive together. The light refractions of the sunlight create endless patterns and artwork together with the sand. I would love to see Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands too, although not for work!

What's your social media of choice?
Anything visual, Facebook or Instagram.
www.l-a-v-a.net

Pictures: Jayne Ion and Marinco Kojdanovski (Out of Hand exhibition)

POLLY DICKENS Habitat

Polly Dickens is a well-known figure on the London design scene. Famous for her brilliant eye, she has travelled the world as a buyer for retailers including Anthropologie, Liberty and The Conran Shop. Now Creative Director at Habitat, she has gone full circle back to her Conran roots charting the unexpected colour combos, textures and patterns that embody Habitat's genre-hopping, global mix.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your new collection for Habitat.
We’ve looked at a range of ideas for AW15 from the 1980s Memphis design movement to mid-century America, 1950s Scandinavia and modern-day Africa. Our designers have translated these ideas into a collection that ticks lots of boxes with interesting use of materials, strong shapes and bright colours. My favourite is the new 'Astrid' light designed by Matthew Long, which was inspired by DNA molecules for a simple but elegant, graphic lighting concept. His 'Hawkins' armchair is also a real statement combining an angular shape with chrome frames and mixed fabric textures (see our picks from the Habitat AW15 collection here).

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Hawkins' armchair by Matthew Long in green wool and grey velvet, £995, Habitat
BELOW: 'Astrid' lights by Matthew Long, from £70, Habitat

What aspect of the range do you love the most?
That it’s brave and makes a statement. I always admired Habitat for creating designs that have a distinct personality – designs that aren’t afraid to challenge conventions and push people into looking at home furnishings in a different way. With this collection I really feel that we’ve done that again, creating statement designs that some will love and some will hate but that encourage people to be passionate and engage with design. Nobody else is doing that on the high street but it’s where Habitat will always be.

How would you sum up your style as a designer?
I’m not a designer as such but more of an editor – putting together designs and products for the Habitat collection and building the creative identity of the brand. For me, the provenance of a product is paramount and I’ve worked to champion ‘the hand of the maker’ at Habitat. You’ll notice, especially with our ceramics, textiles and accessories, that we’ve made sure you can see where a person has worked on a product – from brush strokes to imperfect shapes.

What are your influences?
I find that experience is my biggest influence – experiences from travels, exhibitions, trade fairs, theatre – the list goes on. I am continually inspired by people, places and things around me. These are constantly changing and translate into the collection in some shape or form. This year, the incredible Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Venice Guggenheim was the inspiration point for our Christmas 2016 collection, which we are really excited to launch.

BELOW: 'Mural' (1943) by Jackson Pollock is on show at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, until 16 November 2015

Who or what is exciting you in design right now?
UK designer Aaron Probyn (left). We worked with him on a retrospective project for Habitat’s 50th birthday back in 2014 and I’m working with him again on a new collection for SS16. The way he adapts across product categories using different mediums is fascinating.

ABOVE: 'Poise', 'Pendry' and 'Marlowe' table lamps for Habitat by Aaron Probyn, 2014
BELOW RIGHT: Jean Prouvé's 'Fauteuil Direction Pivotant' office chair by G–Star RAW for Vitra

What’s next for you?
We’ve just finished putting together our SS16 collection so it’s on to AW16. I’m off on a big buying trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, China and Thailand. We’ve worked with suppliers out there for a number of years and on this trip we’ll be looking at accessories from new ceramicists' studios, working on Christmas decoration designs and also new porcelain lighting in China.   

Who are your design heroes?
Jean Prouvé is one. I love his work and am fortunate enough to have collected several of his pieces for Vitra over the years.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
I’m a bit of a travel junkie. My job has meant I’ve been lucky enough to cover most corners of the globe but the one place I want to spend more time is Japan. It is such a diverse country that I have only been able to glimpse it on business trips so would love to have more time to explore. I’m also a passionate cook, so anywhere that has a good food market is on the list too. 

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
Anything from Korean-born, Brooklyn-based Jennie Jieun Lee’s ceramics collection.

ABOVE: The colourful painterly ceramic world of Jennie Jieun Lee

If you weren't a creative director, what might you have been?
At university I was heavily involved with student theatre, designing and making costumes for lots of different productions. I loved it and was thinking of extending my degree into theatre design.

What’s your social media of choice?
I’m quite an ‘unsocial’ media type, however I love photography and my iPhone’s memory is always full of all the pictures I take, so I’d have to be on Instagram.
habitat.co.uk 

Habitat's Autumn/Winter collection is available from September 2015