For most designers, there is no higher purpose than making the latest products ever more desirable. Ross Lovegrove has another ambition: to recreate design as a chance to explore how we live. Deyan Sudjic learns how the Wizard of ahs turns technology into the experience of sense
“With his elongated frame and minimalist white beard and a dress sense tinged by the exotically ethnic, there is something of the wizard about Ross Lovegrove. Wizards as we knew them in the days of Tolkien, rather than Rowling. He is after all, Welsh, a nation given to storytelling and self-dramatization, qualities that have proven useful for designers all the way from Frank Lloyd Wright (who was indeed Welsh) to Raymond Loewy (who wasn’t).
Lovegrove’s studio is a high-tech cave caught between the fashionable squares of Notting Hill and the neighbouring ghetto. It is dotted with the kind of artifacts you might find in any wizard’s lair—fragments of wood, shells, pieces of bone—as well as the more predictable paraphernalia of a contemporary design studio, a row of computer screens, a bicycle with a bamboo frame, and a new printer, still in its box.
Lovegrove, his architect wife Mishka, and their 14-year-old son, live above the studio which has been designed as a kind of manifesto. Outside, it has an anonymous, blank façade, but once the electric door slides noiselessly open, and you cross the threshold on a metal ramp, you confront what looks like a dizzyingly fragile spiral staircase.
Made of glass-reinforced plastic and other complex resins, it swoops down to the lower level with the precision and delicacy of a twist of lemon peel carved by an expert cocktail maker. In a way, it is a metonym for all that Lovegrove represents, staking his claim not to be limited to the scale of the domestic object. “I want to be fully engaged at every level,” he says. “To be involved in the debate about contemporary architecture, not necessarily by building, but in thinking about space and how it comes together.”
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