Client File

Where some people view themselves as artists, engineers or architects, Richard Moss likes to take a more interdisciplinary approach to his design practice and ethos

Words by Pamela Buxton

What – or rather who – could possibly link such disparate creations as Santiago Calatrava’s spectacular World Trade Centre Transportation Hub in New York, mixology machines that will rustle you up a cocktail in less than a minute, and hearO, a speaker made out of a used tennis ball?

The answer is Richard Moss, the 40-yearold founder of Rogue Projects, a Londonbased experimental design consultancy that this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. Perhaps it’s because Rogue is so hard to pigeon-hole that Moss is not better known given the highly engaging nature of his work, which also spans retail design in South Africa, residential refurbishment in Amsterdam, a pedal-powered monorail concept for Google, further tennis-ball related products and installations, and much more besides.

Rogue’s interdisciplinary approach weaves artistic and engineering principles into projects that promote environmental awareness through cutting-edge design

‘I’d consider myself a designer with a speciality in product design, in materials, and with a real love and focus for architecture and engineering as well,’ he says, regarding this inter-disciplinarity as one of the studio’s strengths.

So, too, is imagination, which he identifies as ‘a core value of the studio’. And having taken art classes throughout his career, Moss also describes himself as very much centred within the arts.

‘My heroes are artists who re-think materials, and re-think what things could become,’ he says, referencing the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei among many inspirations.

A visit to his Islington studio is revealing. Beautiful shells and other well-considered objects plus artwork by Moss help set the creative ambience – as well as plenty of tennis balls. Rather unexpectedly, the space is presided over by the large stuffed head of a Cape Buffalo (a client’s, due to be turned into a sculpture against hunting).

Now happy to call London home, Moss grew up in South Africa – he has dual nationality – and moved to America to take degrees in architecture and civil engineering at Brown University. Fresh from his studies, he plucked up the courage to approach architect and engineer Calatrava for work, and ended up heading his New York City studio’s building workshop at a time when Calatrava was busy on the World Trade Centre site transportation hub, and other US projects.

Rogue’s interdisciplinary approach weaves artistic and engineering principles into projects that promote environmental awareness through cutting-edge design

These years turned out to be very formative experiences for Moss. ‘Santiago was always a hero of mine, very much because he could transcend disciplines – he was as much an engineer as he was an architect and he had a great mind and was a great artist. He has a really skilled hand and a tremendous architectural vision for what he wants to do with his projects.’

He moved to London to do a master’s in advanced structural engineering in London’s Imperial College, and subsequently worked for engineering designers Expedition Engineering, where projects included the aforementioned Shweeb Monorail, a fantastic but ultimately unfulfilled concept for Google’s Mountain View campus in California. Despite such fascinating projects, the job wasn’t a great fit for Moss and he left to set up Rogue.

‘I always knew I wanted to be in a space and place where I could work from a blank canvas and really consider independent projects just as much as consider consultancy projects,’ he says, preferring to work with a small team and collaborate with outside specialist design and technical expertise as required.

The first of these self-initiated projects was the tennis ball wireless speaker, hearO, inspired by Joseph Beuys’s well-known Capri Battery lemon light. As a serious tennis player who was close to turning pro in his student days, tennis balls were something Ross was deeply familiar with. His initial motivation was rethinking the potential that existed in the material after the championship tennis balls had reached the end of their initial life, and would otherwise be destined for landfill. ‘I looked at the tennis ball as an object of intrigue – very ergonomic and very tactile, with the potential to become something else.’

Rogue came up with the hearO Bluetooth speaker concept, making the most of the ball’s inherent protective case and vibrationcontrolling properties. After developing it for manufacture, Rogue has adapted the appealing novelty speaker over the years in association with different tournaments and brands. He’s also created art pieces using balls and off-cuts, including the Back the Brits installation for Vodafone’s Wimbledon space.

Moss has been developing a series of extraordinary mixology machines, created as intriguing centrepieces for saloon environments. Image Credit: Natural Selection Design

Moss clearly enjoys coming up with engaging concepts for brands – whether a retail interior or installation, and working closely with clients to develop and extend their briefs. It’s important, he says, that clients are not only clear about their own narratives but are also willing ‘to go on a journey’ with Rogue.

‘We offer something very unique and very novel. We also come up with works that are extremely imaginative and inventive. It does take a particular type of client to buy into me and buy into our studio and the work that we do.’

Given his architectural background, it’s no surprise that he’s also drawn to creating spatial brand environments. In South Africa’s Cape Town, he worked with Boutique Haute Horlogerie on a flagship store for luxury watch brands, creating the branding and architectural experience. This included the use of curved terrazzo fins to delineate the areas of the different fins and a custom-made milled and polished solid brass BHH monogram.

He clearly relished the creation of the latter, which, like the tennis ball projects, enabled him to really explore the potential of the material.

‘The possibility of materials is very much woven into the ethos of how I think and how I approach projects…Materials very much lead my enquiry,’ he says.

Image Credit: Jack Brockway

Over the last five or so years, Moss has been busy on an ongoing series of extraordinary mixology machines, created as intriguing centrepieces for saloon environments. The first, Mr Fogg’s Mechanical Mixologist in Covent Garden, channels a Victorian steampunk vibe plus Phineas Fogg from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days while creating a Negroni in 45 seconds. Constructed in brass, iron and glass, the mechanical design features an alchemical wheel with round bottom flasks that theatrically mixes and dispenses the required volumes. In doing so, the glass itself, rather than Verne, is taken on a journey.

Further commissions followed including the very sleekly styled Mix Machine for Glenmorangie X, which is a contemporary take on a traditional jukebox. Designed as a mobile machine for different events, it mixes four different whiskey highballs, accompanied by its own music – the customer places their glass on a black Corian record disc to start the mixing process.

Most recently, Rogue completed The Dispensary, a permanent installation at Glasgow’s The Alchemist bar and restaurant. Customers use a brass coin to activate the machine and select one of three whiskey cocktail options, created in two interactive portals.

‘It was important that the machine should sink into architectural space and work seamlessly. It was a real weaving of stakeholders and people understanding what was possible from a branding perspective, a functional perspective, and how the machine would exist in the space.’

Mr Fogg’s Mechanical Mixologist can create a Negroni in 45 seconds. Image Credit: Lee Funnell

They’ve evidently hit on a rich vein of potential for the design of brand-enhancing drinks machines, with Rogue coordinating both the hardware design and the software engineering that powers the machines.

Rogue’s multi-disciplinary range and intriguing track record certainly make it an attractive partner for adventurous brands looking beyond the run of the mill.

For the moment, there’s no short of variety on the projects underway, which also include whiskey packaging and other whiskey-related projects, chandeliers for private clients, as well as further machines. He’s also working towards an exhibition of his artwork – acrylics, oils and sculpture.

Looking ahead, Moss envisages more installations for brands in different industries and more machines beyond the spirit sector. He’d like to work with more brand environments, especially in the luxury sector, and is particularly drawn to brands with a sense of timelessness. Dream projects include ‘a nice sensory retail store’, another watch brand collaboration, and maybe, at some point, an architectural project like an experimental home.

The idea of creating a body of work at Rogue is very important to him – so far, he says, it’s still in its relative infancy.

‘There’s a lot brewing for the studio,’ he says. Certainly it will be interesting to see what the next ten years – and beyond – brings.

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