There’s something about the paradox of being an island in the center of the globe’s crossroads that makes British design on one hand defiantly independent yet on another wonderfully intwined with the pulse of the rest of the world. But on our last trip to London we were forced to reconsider what we felt about British design. This all started when we saw this entrance to this government building – a retro-futuristic pod. We just stood there and wondered, “Why?”
A shift has happened in British design which has led to the ironic, reflective and cheesy to be considered good design. When we first started witnessing the emergence of a retro-future aesthetics with shiny plastics, curves, lack of corners, neon-lighting and rounded-edged parallelograms, it seemed, to us anyway, to be a playful realization of kitsch 50s and 60s product design and architecture. It was cheesy but it was fun because of the irony these things.
Somehow in Britain, what was considered ironic is now considered good design that should be pasted to everything and anything. It’s happening everywhere: ATM machines at Barclays Bank has signs that label them “Hole In The Wall“, cinemas squeeze their names to things like “vue” even everyday chain-pubs have this retro wallpaper all over them to try to make them cool without any understanding of why the bars they copied their look from ever used it in the first place.
We didn’t write about it then because we just blamed our mood on jet-lag, but when we saw the design of the new Red Bull head quarters in London we had to cry “Arrêt!”
Somehow a group of British designers (not all) have been allowed to take this retro-futuristic concept and explore it ad infinitum without anyone stopping them. The design of the Red Bull headquarters smacks with everything that’s going wrong with British Design. It’s unoriginal, aloof, showy and painfully trendy. The walls slope, the booth’s edges are rounded, the stairs are cliche and if it didn’t have that two storey slide, we’d mistake it with the lights dimmed as Rikki Tik’s in Soho in 1995.
The ironic thing now is that the head quarters of a company only a hundred yards from where that cheesy, showy, brash bar stood is now considered by some as the epitome of British design. Coming soon to the pages of the CoolHunter, no doubt.
More pics here