Industrial aesthetic

In a mid 90s FACE magazine there was a black and white photo of a room, with an old crittall windows, worn wooden floors, a rusty looking metal chair, a table with a cafetiere and coffee cup, and I think there was a black cat on the chair. That’s my first memory of consciously thinking that I loved the rough industrial look and wanted to live in it. 

Prior to that I also remember an apartment in A Fish Called Wanda, where I think John Cleese goes to have an affair. Yes, here it is:

And wow! I just found it was for sale for £2m a few years back! I remember that place too and not understanding why I wanted to be in it. Back to the future and 2000 and there as a Wallpaper magazine with this Absolute Vodka ad on the back:

Again, and in colour this time, I remember dreaming of occupying a space like this. 6 or 7 years later, by utter chance, we actually did occupy this space when we ran With Associates from it, aka Studio 100. It turned out that the Absolute ad was shot just a few weeks before the guys that set up Studio 100 moved in. I don’t think I’ve ever been as professionally happy as those first few years in that space. Actually operating out of my dream space. I must have taken over 1000 photos of it on early mornings and at times when it just looked so perfect and cool:

Since early 2000 however, more and more of these old industrial spaces have either fallen into disrepair, or been knocked down for new builds, or been done up in such a desirable fashion that they are priced, as above, at over £2m and far out if reach of artists and small business looking for cheap studio space. 

Rather than moving on however, the result over the past decade seems to have been the faking of dilapidation and industrial charm, though with an interesting mix of modern materials and infrastructure, like shiny air-conditioning systems and exposed breeze blocks and metal cable trunking. 

I saw a recent example of this at a Jamie’s Italian in Richmond (which, for the record, is surprisingly good at catering for food allergies and has a great kids entertainment and colouring pack!). All the fixtures and fittings had a the feel of Studio 100 and an old industrial building, but when you looked directly up through the ‘wooden ceiling’ you could see the exposed guts of pipes and trunking, usually hidden by suspended ceiling panels:

While the space isn’t actually old then, I kind of like that they’ve used old fittings and not tried too hard to hide the modern reality of the infrastructure, Working with what they have like we did in Studio 100. Beams and noggins exposed because they’re there, not dressed up to look like something else. A direct use of the space and materials. 

This applies less to the walls in the space however which were oddly and overtly ‘faked’ to look old. Wall paper that was applied and then torn and then reapplied, and wooden cladding that looks deliberately painted and then roughed up rather than reclaimed and simply applied:

Why does this offend me so much, while the clear exposure of modern infrastructure doesn’t? I think maybe it’s about the honesty of the look. A translation of the use of a building and materials rather than just an effect. Like when an onscreen font is made to look like it’s wood blocked, or when digital film is made to look like 8mm film, with scratches and jumps. And it’s not that I’m a purist I think, I don’t object to old designs that have been remade in recent times, following the same processes and using the same or new materials. I just think that people can tell when something is faked for the sake of effect only, and that it’s subtly insulting and condescending. 

For the same reason I’m still strongly opposed to the changes in copyright law that mean companies like aren’t allowed to keep making designs that previously fell our of copyright. Read more about that at Ateliertally. I’m still a little way of composing my full thoughts and understanding of the ruling. 

In the meantime, I strongly recommend shopping in the Swivel sale before January 2017 as their chairs have always been of higher build and material quality than I’ve seen in the likes of Vitra and other copyright troll shops.