Pattern Power

‘Step and Path, Exhibition Road’

Two more well-known designs from the Collier Campbell Archive – ‘Bauhaus’ and ‘Cote d’Azure’  – appear in yet another little V&A book – this time about Modern Design.

More about the museum’s current exhibition another day. It’s the street outside that holds greater interest for me today – a tribute to the subtle power of pattern……

The traffic in Exhibition Road, London is controlled by a web of changing patterns which inform and encourage our intuitive use of the space: the boundaries, kerbs, drains, crossings and junctions,  where we stop, where we sit, drive, walk, look to right and left – all is suggested by the use of different materials and textures arranged in varying patterns and configurations. Cobbles, bricks, studs, ridges, setts are organised and installed with precision and excellence. It’s masterly workmanship, beautiful.

The result is a harmony of shared thoroughfare: wheels – two, three, four and more spin along their designated space, or park unobtrusively – my young friend Shifra on her unicycle could have a ball. Legs – two, four and more (there must be some spiders out for a scuttle) can wander or speed feeling at ease in the spacious gracious streetscape; bottoms can sit, eyes can linger, conversations can be held, babies can suckle and a wheelchair user can relax in the sun – all together – unusual in a busy London street – no? Yes!  A triumph of thought and imagination – thank you RBKC and Dixon Jones.

Some years ago we at Collier Campbell were commissioned by Conran Associates to design the carpets for the then new North Terminal at Gatwick. They too had to work for their living: the different patterns, as well as looking good, were intended to encourage the travellers in transit – walking, waiting, sitting – and to confirm them in their whereabouts.

Of course what you don’t get there in Exhibition Road is the extraordinary but commonplace hubbub of those packed Moroccan streets, thronged with wheels, shoes, hooves cloven and shod, claws and beaks all jostling in their co-operative competition for space. Intuitive, exciting but a little nerve-wracking!  And then down an alley you suddenly see a wall painted with these witty flowers!

Back home in the silence the cat sleeps.           The rain stops, the birds start to sing again.

The cat wakes up….Birds beware!

The Art Room is a charity well worth supporting. At times some children find life difficult and conforming to school a challenge: it offers space and time for them to explore their creativity, gain confidence and recognise their own true capacities. It’s 10 years old this April – a tremendous achievement to be celebrated – congratulations! One way it raises funds is through an exciting and unusual art auction – have a look.

Talking about pattern – I will be – at the Beacon Hastings on May 18th.  And there are more talks and workshops to come later in the summer at the V&A.

The trees are just getting on their flimsy green underwear before dressing up in all their verdant finery.

Thanks to Alan and Molly.

7 thoughts on “Pattern Power

  1. This is a lovely post – I just stumbled on your website and blog through the comments page on another. I know the V&A and Exhibition Road fairly well, though I no longer live in London, and as a former architecture student ground textures are something I am often aware of. I am now branching out into textiles so it is lovely to see how you combine these two seemingly disparate things via your love of pattern and surfaces. Thank you, I’m looking forward to exploring more of your work!

  2. Lovely – what an eclectic, vibrant riot you blog is Sarah!

    I’ve always liked to look up when walking around the City – you see the most unexpected treasures.that way. Now I must look down too – watch out anyone in my path!


  3. You were born without the grey-misted vision that drives most Brits to safe monochromes and sad navy. I’ve loved your sense of colour and pattern since those heady days in Montgomeryshire, Sarah!

    Von Whiteman

  4. I thought this was really lovely and brought back the perception I had when I was taking a design course some years ago and I was fasinated by the shapes all around me.

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