Pioneers of Contemporary Design at the Barbican Museum, Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC2, London, UK, 8 February - 16 April
IF YOU ARE LIVING IN LONDON YOU ARE SOMEWHAT UNCONSCIOUS OF ALL THE DESIGN SURROUNDING YOU. LONDON IS LIKE AN ONGOING LIVE EXHIBITION, ESPECIALLY IN PUBLIC SPACES. PERHAPS UNAWARE YOU MIGHT BE SITTING WAITING COMFORTABLY IN A CHAIR PROBABLY DESIGNED BY ONE OF BRITAIN'S MOST SUCCESSFUL AND INFLUENTIAL DESIGNERS, ROBIN DAY.
The other day we went to see an exhibition featuring work by Robin & Lucienne Day at the Barbican Art Gallery. The Day's are one of the most exciting couple we have come across, now in their 80s they are still running the show. The Day's were unknown to us only three months ago, when unaware we bought two of Robin Day's chairs in an English interior shop called HABITAT, but now it seems like we are one of their biggest fans. They have almost become our role models. The Day's are a extraordinary couple, commercially successful working under the same discipline for over fifty years. It seems like they never really got too excited by trends, so troughout their careers you can easily spot their aims. Of course they are influenced but their influence is stronger. It is easy to imagine that they live in their own world, but surely they are not. They are living in the same world as us but they are creating another world. Their output relate much to what is interested for them, how a leaf is shaped or how long time you have to wait for the Underground.
Robin Day's work seems to be everywhere all the time, at Underground stations, classrooms and concert halls, but sometimes it is difficult to notice. Because he has designed furniture we often take for granted, they are practical, comfortable and inexpensive, their designs look simple but in truth are very complicated. Lucienne have done the same for textiles, creating designs which are colourful, semi-abstract and graphical. Together and apart their design transforms spaces into something modern and bright, confident, forwardlooking and contemporary. The shapes and material of Robin's furniture have a great understanding of its needs. The natural movement of coulour and life is reflected in Lucienne's printed fabrics.
Normally you have to break the bank to get hold of some designer pieces but with the introduction of 20th Century Classics at Habitat it is possible to invest in the Day's design. Habitat are collaborating with design legends of our time and offer their designs, although slightly modified, for an affordable price. It is not a surprise that Tom Dixon, Design Director of Habitat, speaks so warmly about the Day's, because he is aware of their significance and what interested Habitat to re-launch the Day's designs were their understanding of the process. Nowadays designers spend much of their time in front of a computer screen but the Day's works much more in an hands-on approach. When we saw Lucienne's sketchbook absolutey packed with different printed fabrics it makes you wonder why you rely on the computer so heavily. It is probably the hand-made look of especially Lucienne's work which have made them so successfull.
Now it has gone three months since we bought our Robin Day polypropylene chairs, so far so good, a bargain at 20｣ each, at sale!
We wish we can experience the sort of successful career and life that the Day's have achieved in theirs. We don't envy them but we truly admire them.
FURTHER INFO: at HABITAT
Kathryn Hiesinger and George Marcus, Design Since 1945, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983
Lesley Jackson, Robin & Lucienne Day - Pioneers of Contemporary Design, Mitchell Beazley, London 2001
Lesley Jackson, Contemporary Architecture and Interiors of the 1950s, Phaidon, London, 1992
Penny Sparke, A Century of Design - Design Pioneers of the 20th Century, Mitchell Beazley, London, 1998
Sutherland Lyall, Hille ｭ 75 Years of British Furniture, Design Council, London, 1982
Text: Karl and Yasmeen.