Show: Long – Form – Library, Thomas Mills.
Tell: “At 246cm tall, the library is three parabolic rings that intersect. It rocks on a curved hull. The lights are programmable. It is a reading machine. Long–form is a term used to describe non holistic activities (such as internet and television) like reading and writing.
“Ettore Sottsass wrote a marvellous poem called ‘Design for the Rights of Man’. This was the inspiration for the Library. The written word was the only provisional research source I used. The brief reflected the sentiment in his poem: that we design for the rights of man, not business. It is a rejection of current Thatcherite, Design School principles.
“After conducting my initial research for the Library, I then attempted to assimilate a visual reaction. A bottom heavy piece of costume jewellery provided the inspiration for the form. I always use strip lights where I can, and the intersecting rings represent our capacity for learning. They represent the flux-like state we inhabit when we read. The rocking motion I noted in much of Ron Arad’s work, his Barbican retrospective last year lead me to attempt something similar with the library.
“I am not CAD literate at all. So the whole concept and design was completed without the use of a computer. I then modelled the library in the traditional way and passed my drawings and such to a colleague who provided the CAD drawings I required. CNC (computer navigated cutting) was considered, however, we concluded it would be impractical. This was a massive moment, as I knew that I would be cutting the whole piece by hand. The CAD drawing provided the angles and dimensions without which I could not have achieved any accuracy. Other than this, the whole process was fairly straightforward.
“I must admit, I was very disappointed with the standard of education I received at MMU these past 3 years. The library is my way of stating that tenacity and passion can form a heady alliance. Often we were required to over develop and exhaust ourselves, and our ideas, for the sake of academic continuity. Any hint of rebellion or mischief was treated with high patronage and a prudence one would usually associate with Victorian values.
“Anything that didn’t ascribe to ‘chinzy’ narratives or the vast whirlpool of Scandinavian Modern, was treated with fear and loathing. I took great pleasure in buffeting these principles and with this mighty wall of deference to push and rail against, I found inspiration came easy. Now there is no opposition. So, when reflecting on the affect the library has had, I can state the following: Other furniture makers do exhibit a mistrust of the perceived design monarchy, and self-appointed taste makers, that inhabit our colleges and publications. Ron Arad again, Piet Hein Eek, Martino Gamper and Stefan Wewerka to name a few.
“There is a library called All Saints that contains some of the most fascinating information I as a designer could ever hope to unearth. Yet, we spend days on end trawling the internet for inspiration. The whole university appears to operate through the virtual corridor and it is terrifying. I have learnt to trust instincts over the plethora. The weight available of information should be gauged by its stature not it’s mass. My personal experience is such that I believed then and I believe now that design can be emotive and irrational and rapid.
“There is substantial evidence that design education does not support this. And that saddens me deeply, for that is what has made us provincial players in the global scheme. Habitat aside, we have very little to show for ourselves. Yet, we are encouraged to embrace the IKEA aesthetic, without question. Pathetic!
“My future practice will be defined by economic means and client confidence. I have little time to design as I am now, like everyone else, attempting to tailor my professional activity to the new climate we inhabit. Not to say I am obedient. Just finding new resources to explore.”
Info: Thomas Mills recently completed the 3D design degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. He works in The Design and Construction of Remarkable Furniture / Artistic Commissions for Public or Private Clients / Gallery Exhibition Construction / Museum Furniture and Display Construction / Shop – Bar – Restaurant Design and Fitting / General Interior Design with an emphasis on Themes, Colours, Materials and Spacial Concepts / Graphic Art of all kinds.
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