RCA plays shop

Rope-supported benches, papier-mâché tables and plytube stools... That'll be this week’s RCA graduates pop-up shop, discovers Annie Deakin
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The Independent Online

Pop-up shops, guerilla window displays and temporary installations are quite today’s norm in the design industry, particularly in the creative corner that is London's Brompton Design District. This week, and for four days only, is the graduate display RCA Design Products which is currently camping out (until 30 May) in The Garage, 1 North Terrace, London. Expect suitably experimental designs from tables made from tree trunks, benches supported by ropes and papier-mâché tables.

The proximity of the Brompton Design District (around the South Kensington area) to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art makes it a natural destination for design followers. Hence, the frequent shows by highly acclaimed designers including Ron Arad, Vessell Gallery, Rabih Hage and Skandium. This week's pop-up shop is a little more youthful in that the designers, all graduates from the RCA Design Products course 2010, are mostly unknown. ‘We were approached by Brompton Design District to do this pop-up show as they had seen our exhibition in Milan,’ says Sue Bradburn, RCA spokesperson. ‘The exhibition is part of the District's regular promotion of design in the South Kensington area. The exhibition gives the graduates an opportunity to promote their work to the general public in a new and interesting venue.'

Possibly the most hyped of the objects for sale is Seongyong Lee's Plytube stools; they were recently nominated for the Brit Insurance Design of the Year award. The Korean student has been credited for his radical re-thinking of traditional material use. He constructed lightweight stools from innovative tubes of wood veneer created in a process similar to that of making paper tubes.

Lee isn't alone in turning traditional manufacturing on its head. His RCA peer, Iain Howlett turned to the children's activity of papier-mâché when he wanted to create durable furniture. ‘The papier-mâché industry fell victim to the introduction and popularization of plastics,’ says Howlett. ‘As a design I am interested in the idea that paper products offer a natural and tactile experience that plastics lack.’ Howlett will be showing his colourful tables (£450) and floor lights (£1,600) made from paper pulp at this week's RCA pop-up shop. To ensure that the tables are robust enough, he looked into the structures of the industrial paper pulp packaging used to ship eggs and electronics. Typical of a RCA student, his design is not all about practicalities; aesthetics play an important role in the project. Howlett’s imprinted patterns on his paper pulp surfaces are not solely ornamental; they improve stability.

While the stability of Howlett’s tables relied on paper, his fellow graduate designer Yoav Reches created an ingenious bench reliant on rope in order to stand tall. ‘With passion for both craft and production processes, I have challenged my personal boundaries of design making, re-questioning work methodologies and exploring intuitive responses to design. Rope Bench is a plywood bench constructed and assembled using rope in tension.’ Reches’ Tensile Furniture, on display at this week's RCA Design Products shop, requires no tools to assemble; it instead relies on rope tension. His rope stools sell from £370. The rope is guided through a pattern of overlapping grooves that lock the elements into a fixed structure. Only when the rope is pulled taut can the plywood bench be constructed.

The RCA graduate shop is here today, gone on Monday. Check it out while you can.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.

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