#105 / 2014
Victoria & Albert Museum exterior

V&A entrance

The Wish List — 10 x 10

As part of the 2014 London Design Festival (LDF), 10 emerging UK designers exhibited their design prototypes on an imposing staircase at the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Ten established designer-clients (mostly architects) set the individual design challenges, specifying a product they always wished to have but couldn't find. Terence Conran (acknowledged as a "design legend" by the UK Guardian) conceived the project, appropriately tagged The Wish List, in cooperation with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and FSC-certified furniture manufacturer Benchmark, which Conran and Sean Sutcliffe founded in 1984.


Studio Areti

Win Assakul

Barnaby & Day

Sebastian Cox

Nathalie de Leval


John Pawson

Amanda Levete

Alex de Rijke

Terence Conran

Paul Smith


Felix de Pass

Lola Lely

Norie Matsumoto

Xenia Moseley

Gareth Neal


Alison Brooks

Allen jones

Norman Foster

R. and A. Rogers

Zaha Hadid

Design pairs (above) created end products that varied from the smallest (pencil sharpeners) through several items of furniture to the largest, a garden shed (displayed in the V&A courtyard). Several designs reflected the potential to support Conran's oft-stated belief in "democratic design" and "affordable, useful products" (1) but others proved less so — do many people really need a handmade three-metre-long reversible meat platter/fruit bowl?

Discussion at V&A's Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre

Architect and journalist Edwin Heathcote chaired a discussion with the design teams in the V&A's resplendent Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre on September 15. Addressing the sustainability issues inherent in the manufacture of the pieces (all made from American hardwoods), the AHEC representative extolled positive data from Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies.

Ironically, Sebastian Cox's (paired with Conran) body of work to date largely favours the use of sustainably harvested British hardwoods such as hazel. Using that species for their Wish List project would have helped lower the LCA data scores driven higher by the need to ship wood thousands of kilometres across the Atlantic from the Appalachians. But without the American sponsor, the end products likely would have remained unfulfilled wishes on the list.

The Wish List website provides images of all the designs in the project. furniturelink features three below.

Sebastian Cox | Terence Conran | Workspace

Workspace: Sean Sutcliffe (left), Terence Conran (centre) and Sebastian Cox

Cox chose American cherry for the centre cabinet of his "cocoon desk" that incorporates a desk top, shelves, secret drawer and tambour door. The adjustable screens, made from woven slats of American red oak with a whitening finish, can be open for visitors or completely closed for privacy.

Rob Barnby and Lewis Day | Alex de Rijke | Dining table

Dining table and centre detail

Barnby and Day featured American tulipwood in the cross-laminated sections of their hollow pedestal dining table. The manufacture required three sections to maintain structural integrity and safety for the lathe operator. The centre indentation can serve as a fruit bowl or ice bucket with the addition of a copper insert.

Felix de Pass | Allison Brooks | Kitchen stools

Kitchen stools

De Pass also showcases American cherry in the triangular section underframes and turned tops of the two stools. The stainless steel ring on the higher 650 mm stool provides both a foot rest and structural integrity.

Source [1]: http://www.wantoday.com/inside_15_2012/profile.html

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© 2014 furniturelink (text and images), top image courtesy Wikipedia