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A look at some of this year’s Design of the Year nominees

London’s Design Museum revealed the shortlist for this year’s Designs of the Year Awards, or as they call them, “the Oscars of the design world.” The awards cover Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Transport and Product. A lot of the nominees are British, and last year’s overall winner of the Design of the Year was the Olympic Torch, designed by Barber/Ogersby, a British pair of designers. The  Olympic Cauldron is nominated this year, designed by Heatherwick Studio (and oddly placed in the “Product” category).

Nonetheless, the international representation is also big, though sadly no Canadian content that we can find. Here is a sampling of  “Oscar” class design from a few of the nominees.
Zaha Hadid’s design for Galaxy Soho, Beijing, an office/retail/entertainment complex that has no corners.

Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born, London-based architect and designer, is one of the biggest names in international design, and often called the greatest female architect ever. Her Galaxy Soho project for Beijing shows her characteristic fluid, undulating lines and daring design.

A second work of hers is nominated this year  in the Furniture category, a glass table. To call it “furniture” seems inadequate, though the official description—”The elementary geometry of the flat table top appears transformed from static to fluid by the subtle waves and ripples evident below the surface, while the table’s legs seem to pour from the horizontal in a vortex of frozen water.”—makes it seem rather dull. Which it is not.
Liquid Glacial Table by Zaha Hadid. It appears to have been carved out of ice. Priced at about $160,000.


Not everything on the list is so removed from the day-to-day reality most of us inhabit as the pricey glass table above. There are pots and pans, flashlights, and even objects as mundane as a ketchup bottle. And a portable music system from Bang and Olufsen. It’s not cheap (about $750) but shows the great styling typical of B and O.

Beolit12-Bang &
Beolit 12 by Cecile Manz, for Bang and Olufsen.

The Beolit 12 portable music system designed for Bang and Olufsen by the Danish industrial designer/star Cecile Manx is a good example of the kinds of high design for ordinary objects that the awards intends to honour. It plays music wirelessly from iPhone, iPod, iPad, and  Mac.

In the kitchen, there’s this exquisite entry from Jasper Morrison/Japan Creative. The minimalist Oigen cast-iron  pieces are in the Japanese aesthetic tradition of formal simplicity. The pieces “express a clarity of function and ergonomics”  that expresses  the traditional manufacturing techniques used to make them. The official description notes that the collection is in part inspired by the Japanese spirit of resilience and survival, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. True wealth is not in material affluence, which can disappear in an instant, but in the simple things of life.

Oigen cookware from Jasper Morrison for Japan Creative. Hommage to the Japanese spirit of resilience, following the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Their beauty lies in their simple, space-efficient, multifunctional and traditional design.

These delightful chairs from Studiomama in London are described as being “born out of questioning resourcefulness and attitudes towards waste . . . [building] on the interests of expediency and re-using the existing.” The industrial designer behind Studiomama is Nina Tolstrup, another Dane.
Re-imagining Chairs, from Nina Tolstrup of Studiomama in London. She looks for ways to re-use and recycle in her work. The fabric is by David David Design.

In the area of personal transport, there’s the Mando Footloose Chainless Bicycle, designed by Mark Sanders. This is a hybrid, combining manual (pedal) power and electric. However, it’s real originality is in what it doesn’t have: a chain. The cyclist’s kinetic energy is converted directly to electricity, and stored in a lithium-ion battery in the bike’s frame. The energy is then converted back into kinetic energy by the motor, which drives the rear wheel.

Look ma, no chain! Mando Footloose Chainless Bicycle by Mark Sanders.

The winners will be announced on April 17.

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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