By Mark IsittFeb 17
Edward Barber (Shropshire), and Jay Osgerby (Oxfordshire), could hardly come from anywhere but England. Of the almost one hundred projects the duo have so far realized—mainly furniture but their portfolio even stretches to include the two pound coin, commuter trains and the Olympic torch—all of them bring a whiff of...
Edward Barber (Shropshire), and Jay Osgerby (Oxfordshire), could hardly come from anywhere but England. Of the almost one hundred projects the duo have so far realized—mainly furniture but their portfolio even stretches to include the two pound coin, commuter trains and the Olympic torch—all of them bring a whiff of industrial romanticism.
The limitations imposed by the production process are something they find inspiring, and challenging workshop skills is for them an incentive. Their aim is to enrich the mass produced item with “a bit of personality.”
Barber & Osgerby products—finely crafted and constructed—can best be described as sensible, low key or even “Scandinavian,” as I hear visitors observing with delight at this year’s Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair.
The Guests of Honor
This year these London based Britons are the fair’s Guests of Honor, a title created 13 years ago—Patricia Urquiola, the Bouroullec brothers, Konstantin Grcic and Inga Sempé are others before them—and one which comes with a quite specific obligation in return: The guests of honor are required to design the pavilion at the entrance to the fair.
The Barber & Osgerby version reinterprets the Stockholm winter, with a snow white plank floor where—separated by a five-meter-tall layer of thick blanketing—surges a flood of products of their own design.
The manufacturers include such experiment-friendly firms as Knoll, Vitra and B&B Italia. The characteristic Barber & Osgerby idiom may be down to earth but the investment in product development and materials is often astronomical.
I find them there, seated on swivel stools.
Jay Osgerby: As Guests of Honor, we have been asked to create the lounge. We have divided it into three different zones. The overarching principle was to recreate our preconception of the Stockholm winter. So we’ve done that through an extensive use of white but also with materials that we associate with Sweden and Scandinavia, especially in winter. Sheep skins, animal skins, raw oak, subdued lighting.
Edward Barber: (smooths his hand across the Tobi-Ishi-table for B&B Italia) Polish lacquer…
JO: This is the Italian influence…
EB: (pointing towards the felt screens) We had these screens especially made for the fair, made by a Swedish company, Nordifa.
Listen to the voice box below to find out why the duo designed felt screens, what they think about design fairs, their visit to production plant Swedese (p.16) and how they like their tea.
The duo met at The Royal College of Art in an architecture course, looking to do something different. Learn more about their crossed paths and how they function as a team—after 25 years of working together— in the voice box below.
For the Stockholm pavilion, the floor was an important discussion, and still is. Click below to hear more on how they went from wanting a black floor and wanting to use their Mews tiles for Mutina to deciding on a white canvas-like surface.
Image: Mews tiles for Mutina by Barber & Osgerby NOT used for the floor of their Stockholm pavilion. Courtesy of Mutina
ArchiExpo: Tell me about your office. It seems to me as if you are true entrepreneurs these days. You’ve got Universal Design Studio in your office, you’ve got MAP in your office, and you’ve got a fourth company, haven’t you…? [Watch the video below on MAP Project Office]
ArchiExpo: Considering scale. You work on tiny objects, cutlery, coins even, and trains. Is the process the same despite the difference in scale?
ArchiExpo: I suppose you thrive under those constraints? That’s the pleasure of the job, pushing that limit?
JO: Finding the answer.
EB: Yeah, it’s a really pleasing moment when you feel like you’re… It’s not that there is a Eureka moment, but you know you’re getting close and then suddenly… Like the Tip Ton chair; we had so many complicated mechanisms and springs to somehow get this movement into the simple chair, and then we realized, that if you just went like that, you could do all of those things with no risk, no sort of safety concerns, no extra components, and it was just, it was already there, it was already in the mould, instead of doing that you just do that. So that’s a very exciting thing, when you hit upon something completely new as a designer. Well, for us anyway.