While some designs are intended to be great through form, or function, or both, some are meant to showcase possibilities that are not practically used and to inspire other designers to think differently and not stagnate in their work.
The Smile, a curved, tubular timber structure measures 3.5m high, 4.5m wide and 34m long and is effectively a beam curving up at both ends. Showcasing the structural and spatial potential of cross-laminated American tulipwood, Alison Brooks’ concept is the first ever ‘mega-tube’ made with construction-sized panels of hardwood CLT.
The Smile is a stand-out piece at the London Design Festival, allowing visitors to feel and experience the engineering of a structure from the inside and out. The dramatic appearance of the Smile makes it difficult to miss and its sheer size is utterly remarkable to be in the presence of.
Exploring the interior is an even more intimate experience and through seeing the construction details up close from the inside, you can really see the detailed engineering that went into constructing the piece. It has no practical use, but it’s construction and celebration of material is inspirational and thought-provoking.
Marc Newson’s conceptual car design for Ford is very unusual, but it was never meant to be an existing vehicle. Instead, the purpose of it’s design was to allow a playful and innovative designer to work without a huge amount of constraints in order to create something entirely different in a market that tends not to do anything extremely far away from their competitors.
Newson’s car has a drawer as a boot, doors that open in opposite directions, seats that swivel out for ease of exit and it resembles some 60s suburban sci-fi car, in line with his usual aesthetic. I think some of the ideas here are really interesting, and I never would have thought of them as a possibility since cars are such an unchanging design as a whole.
Essentially, both of these designs aren’t practical solutions to problems on the surface, but they do have influence. I think great design can lie in the inspirational qualities of a concept, as this can keep industries moving and branching out in new and interesting directions.