RAILS: HOW THE JOURNEY TOOK SHAPE
RAILS is a unique concept that bridges the gap between functional design, architecture and art. I conceived the idea in 2015, when I began working on a fictive redesign of Fulham Broadway Station’s old Edwardian ticket hall during my studies at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, London. The idea of ‘journeying’ became both literal and metaphorical as I noted how the ergonomic shape of a railway track could be transposed to fulfil both a functional and aesthetic role in a variety of settings and formulations. The hybrid sculpture-furniture piece that I began to conceptualise became a symbol of life’s journey, encompassing the hopes, dreams and ambitions that each of us will invariably foster, as well as the challenges and unexpected segues that we encounter.
As my ideas crystallised, I initially focused my attention on how to create a new kind of seat, drawing inspiration from a variety of design classics. The timeless shapes of a number of chairs by designers and craftspeople provided impetus, from Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair to African tribal chairs, but I wanted to try an entirely different approach while nodding to the ethos of the great masters. My aim was to highlight the concept of life’s fluidity by creating a shape that could be malleable and moveable while standing the test of time; something that appealed to the nomadic nature of humanity while creating a sense of inter-connectedness among users.
Once I had its distinctive lines sketched out on paper, RAILS began its journey – fusing the concepts of a standout silhouette, ergonomic design and aesthetic appeal. A piece that could allow its users to move, transform, create and recycle ad libitum.
Designed with fluidity in mind, the pieces are born out of our changing relationship with our environment, especially the flexible work spaces sparked by the evolving virtual world. I observed the way people co-exist in shared work and public spaces, paying particular attention to hotel lobbies - where all manner of life converges – plus leisure spaces and private members’ clubs. As our traditional boundaries dissolve, so our need for flexible, freeing furniture intensifies. I wanted to create a range that pays homage to that concept: a world where work shifts into play as effortlessly as day bleeds into night. In this digital age, we spend a lot of time working, while wireless technology enables us to move around more freely. RAILS matches that flexibility with a collection of timeless modules that suit the way we live, work and socialise now, whether in informal offices or home living areas. The simple shape of these stackable objects speaks to our primitive need to let the human body express itself without constraint.
DECONTRUST TO RECONSTRUCT
The breakthrough came when I realised that these pieces worked as well collectively as singly. The designs can be stacked on top of one another to form a column, multiplied to form a hexagonal, or separated to become a stool, chair, coffee table or side table. RAILS can lie horizontally or vertically or be combined to create a bench. A single unit can also be used simply as a striking standalone art piece within a room. The units can be built up or broken down - a symbol of our fluid and mindful approach to our material surroundings. We are each on a unique journey and the endless configuration opportunities of these pieces remind us that there are often many paths presented to us in life.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
The lightweight and easy-to-handle plywood pieces were conceived in a capsule range of colours and finishes. The first limited edition collection was produced in Italy by artisan craftspeople and finishes include metal, brass, lacquer and wood. Unlacquered brass pieces are designed to reveal a gentle patina over time. After successful launches at Clerkenwell Design Week, London Design Festival, 100% Design and Focus, the collection became available to buy at London’s Design Museum and at my first pop-up in Notting Hill in 2020.
But why stop there? With its graphic shape, RAILS’ recognisable motif provides endless 2D and 3D possibilities, from lamps and jewellery to powerful imprints on products and accessories. A recent collaboration with Parisian tile house La Maison Bahya enabled me to transpose the signature motif in a number of colourways, resulting in a collection of bold cement tiles, handmade in Morocco. The next challenge is to create an edit that is just as resilient outdoors as in, while being environmentally friendly. And so, the first RAILS indoor/outdoor sustainable prototype is in the making, created from hardwearing but easy-on-the-eye recycled plastic. Feeding into my ‘deconstruct to reconstruct’ ethos, I hope that it contributes to the endless circle of creation and recreation symbolised by the range.