Radical thinking: Neville Smith of Resonate Interiors

For the first of a new series of features and as the next FX Talks event approaches, Neville Smith of Resonate Interiors gives us his take on radical thinking

Can you pinpoint the thought, whether yours or someone else’s, that led you to a career in design?
The first time a piece of design made me take a very deep breath was when I saw the Pompidou Centre sometime in the late Seventies. It was such an inspiration, a joyous thing, that I knew that making buildings was what I wanted to do. This led to a lot thinking, reading and research into architecture and design, and design is where I thought my skills, interests and abilities best fitted.

In terms of the design and architecture industries, what do you consider the most radical era or pivotal moment?
It is the Dessau Bauhaus and the International Movement. The form and beauty of the buildings was such a radical departure from what had gone before. That post-First World War period was full of such hope and desire for change and progress, and the architecture and design reflected these ambitions as well as a need to break with the past.

Which radical thinkers have been inspirations to you in your career?
Tom Paine and David Bowie.

Neville Smith Studio director, Resonate InteriorsNeville Smith Studio director, Resonate Interiors

Who are the radical thinkers who inspire you now?
Tom Paine and David Bowie.

Who outside the industry can architects and designers learn from?
Does it sound trite to say the people they are designing for?

What will lead the way for more radical thinking in our field?
Technology is moving so fast that within 10 years BIM and other similar software will be managing, running, and costing projects. Robotics will take over many of the skilled trades on site – plastering, tiling, floor laying.

So radical thinking will not necessarily be in terms of design per se, but in the ways that technology can aid design without compromising that spark of creativity.

Could you recommend a book/article/blog that inspired your thinking?
Vers une Architecture by Le Corbusier.

Could you name two buildings/pieces of furniture that you consider radical designs of their time, or perhaps still to this day?
Mart Stam was the first person to design a functional tubular steel chair and this must be one of the most radical and important progressions both in design and technological ability. [It’s] not my favourite chair – that would have to be the Eames Soft Pad Recliner. [The] Eames’ work with cast aluminium and plywood was also radical in its time. Or maybe the Red Blue chair, the physical embodiment of an artistic manifesto…

The Willis Faber Dumas building in Ipswich, as it was then known, has to be one of the most radical buildings of its time. The first in the UK with a raised access floor, a grass roof garden and staff restaurant, not to mention a staff swimming pool, provided an unparalleled range of facilities and predated by many years the offices we see today.

I think best with… (my hands/a pencil/with a computer)
A cup of tea, a .9 Pentel pencil and roll of yellow trace.

I think best… (first thing in the morning/last thing at night)
Anytime day or night. The moment is key…

I think best when… (in a gallery/at home outside/with friends/on the bus)
I think best when I am walking. I enjoy the solitude you can achieve in a crowd and the space this gives me to ponder.

The thought that keeps me up at night is…
The last problem I went to bed thinking about. Not unusual I expect!

The thought that gets me out of bed each day is…
What will today bring?

Do you like to think with, or think against?
I like to think around a problem or issue, so this entails looking at it from all sides. For and against.

The Dessau Bauhaus is from a radical period of design, says Neville SmithThe Dessau Bauhaus is from a radical period of design, says Neville Smith

If you weren’t a designer, where do you think your way of thinking would have led you?
A restaurant kitchen somewhere beautiful.

Could you describe radical thinking in three words?
Have no barriers.

What’s the most radical thing you’ve come across today or this week?
My train actually arrived on time. Just the once, though.

Neville Smith, has been an interior designer for more than 35 years and has recently joined Resonate Interiors as studio director. He has collaborated with internationally recognised practices including Richard Rogers, Sheppard Robson and Fitch and was associate partner at Foster+Partners, where he worked for 10 years.

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