Chatting With Ifeanyi Oganwu

Ibiayi Briggs
Jun 17, 2013 9:05AM

Nigerian-born British designer Ifeanyi Oganwu was trained as an architect and has worked on projects including collaborations with engineers and fashion designers, a background that comes through in his sleek, often digitally prototyped forms. Bulgy, his piece on display at Priveekollektie’s booth at Design Miami/ Basel, began as a creative experiment with topology during his MacDowell Fellowship in New Hampshire. Oganwu describes Bulgy as “a simple relationship between horizontal and vertical” amplified by the curved surface of mirror-polished aluminum. The alternate reflections created by the piece at some points present a singular view of the environment, but at other points completely distort it.

I talked with the designer about what it was like participating in his first Design Miami/ Basel fair and how his past experiences have influenced his practice.

On preparing for a fair in comparison to mounting a gallery exhibition…

Yeah it’s very different actually…I think with the gallery shows, there’s a little bit more flexibility in terms of dates and time schedules, and you know, things like that – from my personal experience. Especially with the intensity involved with making new work for Basel, you know the work came straight from the workshop to the exhibition, which for me is a first. Normally there’s more time to analyse the prototype and you see where things can be changed, but you know all of that is happening here, at the fair, with people interacting with it for the first time, seeing it up actually for the first time, at the fair, whereas at the galleries, there’s more sort of, there’s more flexibility.

On the differences between architecture and design…

I’m trained as an architect. And architecture is a very long long process, when you start a project to getting it built, this can take anywhere from a couple years to maybe a decade or even longer. So with furniture I enjoy the turnaround is a great way to actually test out very complicated ideas, very complicated scenarios in a kind of manageable scale.

On working with the likes of Pritzker Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid and noted fashion designer Hussein Chalayan…

Whenever I’m working on a project, all my experiences come into play, you know? Like when I was with Chalayan, it was more about sort of studying the relationship of the body in space, and when [I was] at Zaha’s, it’s more architecture, so furniture is a kind of a scale that brings both into play.

On taking a work from a digital prototype to physical object…

It’s a very mixed feeling to be honest. I mean, sometimes it’s extremely reassuring, it’s good. You know, because I’ve been working on computers for a very, very long time, so sometimes it’s really reassuring to test out something in a digital domain and then to have the confidence enough to go straight into the prototype without even making any sort of tiny mock up or whatever, or, smaller version of it. Sometimes that’s reassuring…And you know, it was good to see how things can be changed. I mean we’re not changing anything in a digital model, it’s just like changing the approach and the sequence to which it’s put together. Changing the relationships between the materials, relationships between the parts. I mean, in digital only gets you so far, and then you have to take that extra step to bring it to life.

On what happens after a work is created…

I don’t know what it is, but when you make something it’s not the end, you know, there’s another process of trying…yeah, that’s the beauty of working with limited editions as well. A lot of the prototypes are unique objects because after they’ve been realized there’s an editing that goes on to get them to the stage where they’ve been informed by the way people have interacted with them…So when you make the prototype, there’s something to learn as well that informs the next, before it becomes a final form.

On selecting a project…

I always have to make work that I find interesting, right? And what is interesting for me is, all of these architectural concepts and architectural sort of notions that I’ve been kind of working with throughout my career.

Check out Bulgy and Priveekollektie’s booth at Design Miami/ Basel 2013 - Design Galleries, Booth G29, June 11th – 16th. Explore Design Miami/ Basel.

Images courtesy of Priveekollektie.

Ibiayi Briggs