Glithero will unveil a new conception of time at the V&A


Photo: London Design Festival 2016 supported by British Land, 17 – 25 September

When the London Design Festival rolls into town each September, the capital’s shops, museums, and public spaces transform with a diverse programme of design exhibitions and events. For nine days, the design industry and everyday individuals will come together to celebrate London as the capital of design. Although there are more than 400 happenings planned across the city, the Festival’s beating heart is located within the historic Victoria and Albert Museum, lovingly known as the V&A.

The John Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, EnglandPhoto: David Iliff

The V&A styles itself “the world’s leading museum of art and design,” and justly so, as it houses the world’s largest collection of art and design artefacts. It is a central tenet of the Brompton Design District, a collaboration amongst cultural institutions, restaurants, and leading design brands that celebrates the neighbourhood’s artistic roots—Charles Dickens regarded Brompton as the “artist quarter” in his Dictionary of London. Additionally, its central location within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has allowed it to witness the simultaneous modernisation and preservation of the neighbourhood’s iconic Victorian townhouses—one of which houses Hotel Indigo London Kensington.

Aside from talks and events, the V&A will host a number of ‘Landmark’ installations including The Green Room, a jaw-dropping cylindrical curtain made of 160 multicoloured silicone cords that will occupy Stairwell G’s 17.75-metre drop. This installation is the brainchild of London design studio Glithero, in partnership with luxury watch maker Panerai, who have inspired its theme: time.

“It’s essentially a type of clock,” describes Tim Simpson, who co-founded Glithero alongside Dutch designer Sarah van Gameren. “We wanted to create a time piece that people could be inside, that would somehow be more of a spatial, interactive experience rather than something you just glance at.”

Made up of three different colours, each of the cords is attached to a rotating cam arm and then looped over a ring 3.2-metre in diameter. As the cam arm turns—at one revolution per minute—one by one, the strings will lift, creating what Simpson describes as a sort of ‘Mexican wave effect’. “They’ll lift about 2.5 metres upwards, and as they get to the highest point, they’ll slow down and then return and go back down again,” explains Simpson. “The space has a very dramatic drop so we really wanted to create a piece that worked with this verticality. In addition, its vibrancy and synthetic nature will make it really stand out against the Museum’s classical architecture.”

Visitors will first encounter the abstract clock at ground level, where they will be able to look upwards through the mesmerising silicon web to see the stairwell’s domed ceiling. They can then follow the cords up and climb the stairwell until they reach the rotating mechanism within the dome. “There are a number of windows in the stairwell that look out onto the piece, where you’ll see these moving colours passing each other,” says Simpson. “It’s a vision that’s in constant flux.”

The passing of time is a theme that is particularly relevant within the V&A. Originally established in 1852, the V&A has adopted design elements from the Victorian, Edwardian, and even Post-war periods, while its catalogue of 4.5 million historical artefacts span over two thousand years of art. Within the walls of the V&A, time is constantly re-conceived as old structures intermingle with new ones.

The Green Room by Studio Glithero at the V&A supported by Panerai

Photo: London Design Festival 2016 supported by British Land, 17 – 25 September

“It’s really exciting to use this historic staircase for a design installation, for the first time,” remarks Sophie Reynolds, the Festival Manager at the V&A. “The curtains of moving, coloured cords will animate the historic stairwell on every level, and from the top you will be able to peer through the circle of cords for a view of the ground, six storeys below, where visitors entering the building will be first encountering the installation and peering up to see how it works!”

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