Alphabet

Text Image

Alphabet
Typeface, furniture design and installation
London Design Festival, 2018

Every year, the London Design Festival commissions leading designers and architects to produce site-specific installations across the capital. For Finsbury Avenue Square in Broadgate, next to the Liverpool Street Station railyards and the exposed steel structure of London Exchange House, we designed a playground of 26 coloured alphabet chairs.

We wanted to design an installation with which the public could interact. Italian designer Bruno Munari’s 1944 experimental ‘Seeking Comfort in an Uncomfortable Chair’ and artist Bruce McLean’s 1970s ‘Poseworks’ were important influences. Both explore unconventional relationships of the human body with the material environment.

The ‘talking furniture’ became an exercise in construction and in making the alphabet concrete. First we designed a typeface: each letter is made from two folding lines of two standard lengths. Accepting that the construction of some letters – such as the P – would inevitably make them unbalanced, we turned the typeface into three-dimensional drawings based on human measurements and followed with small-scale paper maquettes. We then worked with a production company, drawing on their knowledge of metal folding and welding, to transform the idea of folded paper into the reality of folded steel.

One can never predict public interaction, so we were pleased to see people use the stools in all kinds of ways. The verbal element allowed people to spell out words and names, much as one would write in freshly poured concrete or draw in the sand on a beach.

Photography: Angela Moore