BENCHMARK


Hole & Corner joins the two
Sirs – Paul Smith and Terence Conran as the final touches to their wooden ‘Wish List’ are put together in Berkshire…

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One sunny day in July we found ourselves in the midst of a hive of activity and sawdust in a remote part of Berkshire as we bore witness to the frenetic ‘making week’ at the workshops of Sir Terence Conran’s Benchmark Furniture for a unique project, called The Wish List. 

In association with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark invited 10 established design names to work with new and emerging makers to create a bespoke item of furniture as part of this year’s London Design Festival.

Each designer-maker pairing had to answer the brief: ‘What have you always wanted in your home, but never been able to find?’ – using only American hardwood in the completion of their task. Among those taking up the challenge were Sir Paul Smith and – who tasked Nathalie de Leval with building him
a deluxe shed – and Sir Terence Conran himself, who asked Sebastian Cox to design a desk-cum-cabinet (or, as Cox describes it, ‘A space for undistracted creative thought… 
where he can hide away from the noise of mobile phones and other gadgets’).

Sir Paul was equally inspired by the need to switch off and
have somewhere to relax and escape. ‘In today’s world where everyone is so busy, I think this is really important and very needed,‘ he explains. The same outlook also informed his decision to work with Leval. ‘In this highly commercialised world, it is so nice to discover someone who is so hands on, 
not only in terms of her design but also in the making of her furniture.’

For her part, Leval says she was inspired by everything from
a fishermen’s shed in Hastings to Luis Barragán’s house in Mexico in producing the final design. ‘This shed is not stuck
in the corner of the garden next to the compost bin,’ she explains. ‘Rather it sits on the top of a hill, looking over an amazing view.’

To aid with Sir Paul’s contemplative moments, the final design has one wall made entirely of glass, while echoing the look of a traditional garden shed. It’s a long way from the workshop in Berkshire where the group of young designers – which also included Xenia Moseley for Richard and Ab Rogers, Norie Matsumoto for Norman Foster, Felix de Pass for Alison Brooks, Win Assakul for Amanda Levete, Barnby & Day for Alex de Rijke, Studio Areti for John Pawson, Lola Lely for Allen Jones and Gareth Neal for Zaha Hadid – shared tips and techniques while bringing their individual projects to life…


London Design Festival
Benchmark