In the 20 years since launching his studio, Tom Dixon hasn’t stopped experimenting, and the latest exhibition, coinciding with London Design Festival 2022, is a testament to his non-stop enthusiasm for design experimentation. The British designer (who also happens to be a maker, entrepreneur and more) celebrated his 20 years in business with an exhibition at Coal Office, the design studio, shop and restaurant he debuted in 2018. 

‘A 20th anniversary provides a moment to review, adapt, upgrade and rethink some of the designs that we have produced but also to introduce some of the latest thinking in materiality, longevity and luminosity for the near future,’ comments Dixon, introducing the show. 

Tom Dixon furniture in steel, mycelium and eel grass
The ‘Bird’ chaise in eel grass, the ‘Flamecut’ chair and mycelium perfume towers

Aptly named ‘Twenty’, the display presents the studio’s recent and current areas of experimentation, ranging from material research to formal compositions and products. These span from the lightweight aluminium chair that Dixon created in collaboration with Hydro, and has expanded into a collection that includes ceiling lamps, to the ‘Underwater Project’, and the ‘Flamecut’ chair, an archive piece made of heavyweight, thick steel plate, almost impossible to lift and promising a 1,000 year warranty. 

The ‘Biorock’ chair, the designer explains, ‘is an experiment in underwater factory production’, essentially a collaboration with nature. The chair features a thin metal frame, charged with a small amount of electricity, allowing for a natural concrete to form on top of the structure over two years under the sea. Conceived by 1970s scientist Wolf Hilbertz, the biorock concept was part of the experimental utopia of building cities under the sea, but, notes Dixon, ‘has a great potential in coral regeneration and stopping beach erosions’.

Biorock chair by Tom Dixon
‘Biorock’ chair

More pieces on display include the ‘Dichroic’ chandeliers, a new interpretation of Dixon’s ‘Melt’ lamps, and the ‘S-Chair’ (among his most iconic designs and one, he notes, ‘that has been following me around for years’), this time reintroduced in latex, its original material. ‘It’s a natural material, a forest plastic,’ he explains. For this version, he partnered with Dead Lotus Couture to achieve an inflatable version of the chair. ‘It’s a bit kinky,’ he concedes, ‘but it enhances the curves of the chair.’

The exhibition also includes some work-in-progress prototypes, such as an eel grass version of the ‘Bird’ chaise, and perfume towers made with mycelium from the Magic Mushroom Company. ‘It’s about trying new stuff, and sometimes things don’t work,’ concludes Dixon, ‘but it’s good to show the mistakes as well.’ §

Aluminium chair and lamp
‘Hydro’ chair and lamp
Melt chandelier with iridescent filter
‘Melt’ chandelier with dichroic filter
Cork furniture
Cork furniture prototypes

 

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