Winning Work/ Designers of the Future 2013

As with every W Hotels Designers of the Future Award, this year’s accolades went to three young studios who are conceptually avant-garde, and who execute projects that push their respective discipline in new directions. For the first time ever though, the winning designers were given the opportunity to visit a W Hotel that was undergoing construction or renovation and which had a unique design challenge that needed addressing.

Each designer needed to innovate – technologically, theoretically, or both – in order to tackle their challenge. Not only did they need to creatively engage the site-specific needs of each hotel – each designer was also asked to work in the parameter of Making Connections: their work must have facilitated exchange between local communities and international visitors and needed to deepen an appreciation for the regional characteristics of their respective W Hotel’s locale.

The designers applied their unique perspectives and aesthetics to their commissions, and each are showing their fantastic work here at Design Miami/ Basel 2013.

Seung-Yong Song, who works in Seoul, spoke to me about the process for creating his commission. “I went to Bangkok for 4 days, and they showed me the space and interior design, explaining that the theme of the W Hotel in Bangkok was Contrast.” Indeed, highlighter hues splash against dark tones throughout the hotel, and Song used this as an inspiration for his works, each of which is black on the outside and wildly bright on the inside.

“I was especially fascinated with the different forms and functions of street carts in Bangkok. They sell many different types of food and beverages, and the carts themselves are created in all sorts of designs.” These street carts served as the impetus for his sleekly designed champagne cart (which will be used in the hotel’s bar) a smaller cart that doubles as storage, and a rolling cabinet structure with an affixed mirror, which can be adjusted to act as a display lamp.

For the W Hotel currently under construction in Verbier, Switzerland, Jon Stam designed a signature piece that combines both traditional, thought-to-be-obsolete technologies and the tools of new media. A large and circular mounted mirror hangs on the wall, darkly reflective except for the picturesque scene cropped into a circle in the middle of it. 

Stam tells me to rotate the rim, and to my delight the image in the middle turns out to be a 48-hour time-lapse, depicting a view of the mountains and sky from the W Hotel in Verbier, shooting starts and all. The object also acts as a clock, depicting the exact minute in the time-lapse as local time.

“I was thinking about my experience in Verbier, hiking and looking at the landscape, and I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do anything more than what’s already here – it’s so beautiful on its own.’” Stam pondered this, and slowly came to realize as he looked out on the pristine terrain that the views he experienced were still, in some way, mediated. Looking through the windows of rooms and the bar, he found his muse. Using a Claude Glass as an example (“the Instagram of the 18th century”) he shows how the future of design is directly linked to the past.

Bethan Laura Wood, who started her studio WOOD London in 2009, travelled to Mexico City’s W Hotel, which is undergoing renovation. She was told about an acute traffic problem that resulted from visitors only using the elevator and not the stairs, and that “W Hotel Mexico City was interested in creating something that drew people to the stairs.”

Wood offered me a chili-sugar lollipop – the ones adorning the wall of her booth – which started to burn as she described her uniquely crafted design solution. Made in collaboration with master glassblower Pietro Myver in Molvena, Italy and the Nouvel Studio in Naucalpan Mexico, Wood created a series of lights nestled in blown glass plates. The plates, alternating between those made by Myver and Nouvel, compare and contrast in both shape and color. Subtly elegant and based on the structures of flower petals (flowers being very important to Mexico’s cultural and religious heritage), the lights produce different levels of transparency and even different shades of blue, red, and yellow as you move around them.

“I was inspired by the markets in Mexico City, where the flowers were arranged in a grid-like pattern, which surprised me. Also, the use of triple-reliefs in the city’s architecture provided a model for the layering of plates.” The individual lights on display can be used to assemble larger chandeliers, like the two hanging in Wood’s exhibition space, which will be installed near the staircases of the W Hotel Mexico City to serve as subconscious pathways.

While they definitely serve this defined purpose, Wood acknowledges that – aesthetically – the series was wrought out of a foundational concern for openness, thus allowing the viewers to see much in the arrestingly elegant lights.

All three of the young designers chosen for this year’s Designers of the Future Award have illustrated their ability to tackle a design challenge with fresh innovation and stylistic panache. They’ve shown that, despite their relative youth, expert design comes when considering future needs and local concerns.

Rob Goyanes

All photos by Seth Browarnik / WorldRedEye.com

Design Miami/ Design Log