Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have envisaged a temporary installation that briefly transforms our perception of the Renaissance art that hangs in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Raphael Gallery. ‘Double Space for BMW — Precision and Poetry in Motion’ is one of highlights of this year’s London Design Festival. It is a truly immersive experience.
Two giant mirrors suspend in the centre of the gallery. The choreographed movement of these structures — flat on one side, curved on the other — distorts the view of the seven surviving designs for tapestries in the Sistine Chapel. The mirrors heighten the scale of the room too, together with the dim light adding even more drama.
Roland Barthes famously compared cars to great cathedrals. “The supreme creation of an era,” wrote the French philosopher in 1957. Here too a conversation takes place between the grandeur of the religious artwork and this contemporary take on the motorcar.
The British designer duo (who’ve previously designed the Olympic Torch for London’s 2012 games as well as the £2 Coin celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground) worked closely with BMW’s director of design Adrian Van Hooydonk and head of design Karim Habib to interpret the core values of the marque.
“I admire Ed and Jay’s work for its clarity, simplicity, openness and I wanted to work with them for years,” says van Hooydonk. So they were invited to Munich to witness the design process and to see the Vision Future Luxury concept car for an expression of BMW’s future visual philosophy.
Van Hooydonk says, “I explained that a car is about expressing movement, reflecting its environment. We stayed up for hours talking and discussing ideas but then we left it open for their own interpretation.”
BMW is keen to work with designers from outside the automotive world. Van Hooydonk feels not being rooted in car design allowed the team to work with their own semantics and references. Their architectural thinking, he notes, led to a dynamic exploration of an existing space.
Barber and Osgerby felt that the project needed to be grand in scale, then as Osgerby says, they wanted to create something that is “awesome in the old sense of the word, that it changes your perception of space and it does something very physical to you.” They wanted to give something back to the Raphael Gallery to make it even more of a magical room.
Van Hooydonk was delighted with the final design. “I loved their idea… showing movement, precision, the poetry of cars reflecting life.” Barber adds, “Our architectural work is concerned with experience and how people behave in that space… this installation ignores all of that and just says it is what it is.”
‘Double Space for BMW – Precision & Poetry in Motion’ will be on display until 24 October.