During London Design Festival you will see many manic looking people dashing around between events, exhibits and installations desperately trying to squeeze in as much as possible. There really is so much to see and do – just another reason why I love my home city.
For the second year running, renowned Italian design magazine INTERNI and Salone del Mobile.Milano have teamed up to host a series of five talks during LDF hosted in the flagship stores of some of the most interesting Italian design brands. I was invited to attend last night’s talk at the Lema flagship store on King’s Road with architect Lyndon Neri of Neri&Hu – Reflective Nostalgia: The Future of the Past. It was a wonderful coming together of brands, designers, architects and publishers, which is the driving force behind INTERNI’s support for this series of talks. As Gilda Bojardi, Editor of INTERNI, said as she introduced Neri: “We are dedicated to encouraging creative encounters.”
I nestled into one of Lema’s deep, soft sofas ready to be inspired by the charisma and talent of Neri. The topic of his talk appealed to me on a personal level because I read history at university and taught it for over ten years: cultural history being my specialist subject. I have always been fascinated by the history of architecture and the talk encouraged us all to think about the future of architecture and how to best embrace the culture and history of a building and place through design. He spoke about the development and urbanisation of many Asian metropolises and how so many tall, shiny sky scrapers are turning them into clones of one another, with no acknowledgement or appreciation of the culture that belies these diverse cities. Neri&Hu is based in Shanghai and Neri talked us through the five main principles of his practice, as well as explaining the inspiration that lies behind some of his projects in the city.
I was totally engrossed not only by the stunning designs but by listening to the stories and research behind each of Neri&Hu’s projects. It’s so difficult to imagine the thought processes that go into designing a building and its interior and it was really wonderful for that firsthand insight. I particularly enjoyed discovering more about a boutique hotel, The Waterhouse, that Neri&Hu designed in Shanghai. They were faced with an almost derelict opium warehouse and the owners were in favour of knocking down the whole building and starting again. However, Neri’s firm principle that “without knowing Shanghai’s history, there is no future” meant that this was not an option for him. Instead, he wanted to embrace the rich culture of the ‘Lanes’ (rows and rows of small townhouses in Shanghai) where the warehouse is located, blurring the lines between old and new. The rooms were designed, therefore, to be open onto each other, onto the restaurant, out onto the street. When you eat in the restaurant you can see into neighbours’ house, just as though you were in a traditional townhouse in the lanes: the blurred boundaries of public and private spaces. Such beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking design.
I could have listened to Neri for hours more and I was just as intrigued to hear about the inspiration behind each of the products that he and his partner design. The design of their picnic basket in this film is truly beautiful.
It was an awe-inspiring talk with the stunning Lema showroom as the perfect backdrop for the evening. After the talk we were also treated to some delicious aperitivo with traditional Italian food and wine prepared by I Love Italian Food and Ristorante San Carlo Cicchetti. The perfect end to an evening dedicated to creative collaborations and INTERNI helping to open the door to inspiration.
Have you got London Design Festival plans for the weekend?
*This post was written in collaboration with INTERNI magazine.