London is a smorgasbord of iconic architecture, cutting-edge design and artists from all disciplines. London Design Festival is the perfect example of this and has been running for well over a decade. The festival returns to the city from the 16th-24th September and our must see choice for the festival is Villa Walala by Camille Walala
Textile designer Camille Walala has created a huge inflatable sculpture, titled Villa Walala, that dominates Exchange Square in Broadgate, a dynamic hub just behind Liverpool Street Station that is owned by British Land. “I want to introduce a sense of the unexpected,” she says of the Landmark Project for London Design Festival. “I think that, to turn a corner into Broadgate, and find a huge, bouncy, pink and patterned house will be hugely entertaining. And people are, of course, invited to come in and play.”
Walala cites as one of her main influences the Memphis Group, a movement whose work her architect father collected in the 1980s. “It is interwoven with memories of my childhood,” she says. “I’ve always been attracted to their use of block colours, the bold shapes and the touch of humour – it really resonates with me, and has become my biggest inspiration as an artist.”
Her mother, a lover of African art, introduced her to the geometric patterns of South Africa’s Ndebele tribe, and she describes her own geometric style as “Tribal Pop”. It is an aesthetic that she has applied to everything “from walls to Easter eggs”.
Her inflatable castle, with its primary colours and dazzle ship patterns, looks like a stack of outsized building blocks crossed with Masanori Umeda’s boxing ring seating for Memphis, with its black and white border and padded posts. Walala imagined her installation being similarly cathartic, a place where City workers could come to let off steam during their lunch breaks.
“Exchange Square is very much a ‘breakout space’ for people working on the campus; so it felt like something playful and maybe even a little childlike could underline and enhance this aspect of the environment. Originally, I wanted to create a giant stress ball or something you could go and squeeze if you needed to, but that proved technically impossible, so my thoughts led me to other things that feel good to squeeze – a giant inflatable seemed an excellent option. I wanted to create something that played to this idea of escaping the office and winding down.”
In addition to owning the campus – through which 65 million people pass each year – British Land has been closely involved with the project from the start. “British Land has been incredibly supportive of this project and has really encouraged its scale and ambition,” says Walala. “As a business they understand the importance of design and how integral it is in enlivening both individual buildings and their broader environments. Their support for Villa Walala is exemplary of this approach.”
The installation has been a collaborative process for Walala. “I’ve been working closely with Go Visual, who have helped me translate my artwork and concepts for shape and scale into a soft but robust three – dimensional structure,” she says.
The designer has already transformed a greasy spoon, a barge, and the facade of a large building in Shoreditch with her distinctive graphics, and she fantasises about decorating the council blocks she cycles past in Hagerstown, where she lives, with vibrant patterns. This is her first inflatable project, and she hopes it will be “a surprising contrast to the architectural context – something colourful and playful that will make the people of Broadgate stop and smile. If it also makes them contemplate things like the relationship between work and play, the mood-enhancing power of colour, and the balance of hard and soft we all need in our lives, so much the better.”