Paul Cocksedge Walks The Fine Line Between Art And Design
The line between design and art is, according to Paul Cocksedge, “a blurry one”. The London-based designer is the co-founder of Paul Cocksedge Studio, where for the last decade, he’s made a name for himself through his innovative design that transcends mediums from art to architecture, product design to sculpture.
No project is ever the same, but they share the uniformity of Paul’s knack for dreaming up and creating enchanting installations that never fail to make one stop and stare.
Having recently designed the Swire Properties VIP lounge at Art Basel Hong Kong, we caught up with the designer to talk about his vision for the lounge, what differentiates good design from great design and more.
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Tell us about your design for the Swire Properties VIP Lounge, which you’ve named Spectrum...
I like that name—Spectrum. We had a few names but that made sense because the piece is very much about colour, and how you can play with lines of colour to create movement. It’s a small piece of architecture, really. It’s a lounge for people and that was the inspiration; in such a huge space, how do you create a sense of intimacy within?
It’s very scientific, like an engineering drawing but a three dimensional one in that there’s a logic to every line.
Tell us about the colours you chose for this project.
Swire Properties has some really lovely colours that they use in their logo. There’s a very particular blue and a very particular red; they’re not the primary blue and red. So we took those colours and blurred them together so these new colours appeared, and those are the spectrum of colours we’ve chosen. It’s not literally the brand’s colours, but there’s a sense of being in these shades.
You feel Swire without explicitly being told it’s Swire. It’s very subtle.
You play a lot with everyday things—stairs, bikes, furniture, lighting, etc. What draws the line between functional object and art?
That line that you’re talking about is a blurry one. You could set out to do something extremely functional and practical, and in the end, it turns out to be just a fantastic use of materials and looks really nice, and people don’t really use it.
The reason that happens is, in our studio, we don’t have a set end goal. We let the idea take us where it takes us, it’s actually really lovely—it’s like a collaboration between the idea and the team working with it.
I think nowadays people don’t need to be told “this is a glass” or “this is a cup”. Kids play with spoons or bowls like they’re instruments… and maybe that’s the way things should be.
It’s the comedy of life, isn’t it? You set out to create structure and logic but as soon as people get involved they turn it upside down and in the end, you have to just smile and say, “isn’t it beautiful that things can be interpreted in any single way possible.” You need control but you need that space to allow people to take ownership of it.
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How much does the location or space you’re using influence what you create? In your creative process, do you start with an idea/concept or do you start with the space?
I think for me it’s crucial to be considering the space, the location, the people, the culture, the environment. Without that, it feels a bit strange and disconnected. In my creative process—and not saying everyone needs to consider all of those things—I need to get into the subject and the types of people who are experiencing it.
In the end, I design things to make people smile and to create a positive energy around what we’re creating.
The VIP booth for Swire Properties, that design very much comes from its location. It’s using the column, but it’s also talking about what it should do, the people who are coming in and the vibe that it's creating. In this case, considering the location was definitely vital.
What, in your opinion, is one of the greatest design feats of all time?
One of the most amazing things we’ve invented is the airplane. It’s incredible how you can jump on a plane and be teleported. It’s a time machine. I was in Heathrow, and I woke up here in Hong Kong.
It takes away any kind of social barrier because we’re interacting… you’re talking to a Londoner and I’m talking to someone who knows this place so well. Those connections are so lovely, aren’t they? It’s what makes our planet small.
How does art have the power to transform public spaces?
I think art, in general, is separate from a lot of other creative acts, such as architecture and design. There’s a real sense of freedom in that it can be anything; there is no “wrong”. That means if you have an artist who is truly free, and they create something, they can show you a new way to think about life and consider who are as humans on this planet.
An industrial designer designing mobile phones doesn’t do that because there are so many things to crack from a functional perspective. An artist has that sense of freedom and a successful piece of art can transform a city. It can really connect with the people that are there—like Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, the famous Chicago bean. You think about the place, and you think about the bean.
It’s an example of how something successful can do that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful either, it can be subtle, it can be bold, it can be tiny. That’s the amazing thing about art. It doesn’t stick to the rules, and it shouldn’t have to either.
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