Use one type of tile, only in shades of grey, to decorate an entire room... Lily Jencks and Nathanael Dorent created magic for this showroom
Client: Capitol Designer Studio (CDS)
Design: Lily Jencks and Nathanael Dorent
Size: 90 sq m
Completion time: 4 months
How creative do you think you could you get with a brief that asks you to decorate an entire room with a single type of porcelain tile? That was the question for Lily Jencks and Nathanael Dorent, who have created this Op Art-inspired temporary installation for the London showroom of tile company Capitol Designer Studio (CDS) in Primrose Hill, London.
Commissioned by CDS to show designers what can be done with just a single tile, Jencks and Dorent were free to do whatever they wanted with the rectangular room; but whatever they did, it had to feature SistemN, a ceramic tile from Marazzi, which comes in a range of neutral shades graded from white to black.
Inspired by the Op Art of the likes of Bridget Riley and Gestalt psychology (the idea that visually recognition is through whole forms instead of their constituent parts), Jencks and Dorent, who practice independently but have worked together on several projects, arranged tiles of 100mm x 600mm and in four shades in a herringbone pattern, covering the floor, walls and ceiling of the space and creating a pattern that's reminiscent of a cartoon explosion.
The efforts of Jencks and Dorent seem to have surpassed the client's expectations. 'Lily Jencks is the most creative person I have ever met,' says CDS's London sales director Mark Williams. 'Her understanding of space and form are truly enlightening. The SistemN tile is a beautiful, but very simple, understated product. I thought that if we put the two together, we could produce something unique.'
Jencks, an architect and landscape architect (and daughter of the garden designer and influential architectural theorist Charles Jencks), sees the project as having two main strands: 'One is about perception - how you perceive distances and shapes, and the other is about how to display an object that's for sale. We wanted the space to be more than just a showroom selling tiles; to rethink the commercial transaction as something more creative.
'What's fun about the SystemN is the subtle range of colour. To get the really vivid, exciting pattern we go dark to light to dark in a gradient, like a pulsating wave, which is where the name of the installation, Pulsate, came from.'
The pattern and structure being so tightly interrelated meant that there was no room for error. If the structure was out by even a millimetre, the pattern would not work, so the designers and tile fitters, who were given the painstaking task of installing the hundreds of tiles, had to pay particular attention to every detail to make sure the pattern fitted perfectly.
The idea of the project, says Dorent, was to create a cultural hub that would become much more than just a tile showroom-cum-shop. 'We had the idea of a shop not just being a functional space, but more about architecture and adventure. The floor is sloped and benches are built into the structure, so you're never very sure what you're looking at.'
The project is an explosion of creativity, but it also required meticulous planning. So that the tiles would come together in the correct pattern, the walls, ceiling and floor had to be sloped at eight degrees, an effect which is barely noticeable when inside the store. That meant that each tile had to be cut precisely at the correct angle to make the connection with the next. 'At first we didn't know that was how to do it and we tried lots of other ways,' says Jencks. There was a lot of trial and error. I think we made 44 models on the computer and then we did lots of physical models. too. The guys who did the tiling deserve a lot of credit. At first they looked at it and they were like "no way" but they were game for it.'
Words by Jamie Mitchell
This article was first published in fx Magazine.