Camille Walala is turning South Molton Street into a lounge for locals at London Design Festival 2019. Here, she talks to OnOffice about her project and her inspirations
OnOffice: What does your project for London Design Festival involve?
Camille Walala: This is my second major public installation for LDF – the first was Villa Walala in 2017, a huge inflatable sculpture in Broadgate. This year I am building on the idea of creating home-like spaces in busy pockets of the city with Walala Lounge – an open-air living room in the heart of London.
OO: What are the locations?
CW: It’s actually one location – South Molton Street, just off Oxford Street. The street (which is 200m long and pedestrianised) will be filled with 10 benches, 12 planters and 20 giant flags that will hang overhead like oversized bunting.
OO: What inspires your work? What inspired the forms of the benches?
CW: The forms evolved through collaging – I chose geometric shapes and colours and experimented with combinations until I landed on something that felt right. Although I work a lot on the computer, I find cutting things out by hand and toying with shapes an important part of the creative process.
Generally, my work is inspired by the Memphis movement, the Ndebele tribe and op art. For Walala Lounge I was inspired by Jeppe Hein’s Modified Social Benches on the South Bank, which reinvented the park bench, to create something more social. I really wanted to create somewhere where people can spend time together, relax, meet friends and rest – I really do want people to use it like a living room space.
OO: Also, why benches?
CW: It was really important to me to create something that was beautiful and useful. When I first started exploring what I was going to do I realised that South Molton Street doesn’t have anywhere to sit. It’s a really lovely street, with loads of cafes and shops, but it lacked a heart – people moved through the space like a thoroughfare.
With people commuting further and living in apartments that may not have big living spaces I think it is even more important that cities have welcoming and truly public spaces.
OO: How long will it be on display for?
CW: Well, the benches will be installed for LDF [14-22 September] and will become a semi-permanent addition to the streetscape – we really want the benches to stay in place for a couple of years after the festival, making a lasting difference to people’s lives.
OO: What is it about the festival that keeps you coming back?
CW: I love London, it’s such a fun and creative city with people from all around the world experimenting with everything – art, design, food, fashion.
LDF feels like a celebration of this. It is an opportunity to give back in some way to the city and the public – it is super special to see people connect and engage with my work. Especially people who didn’t expect to come around the corner and see it – people who aren’t necessarily part of the design community.
OO: What are you most looking forward to during this year’s festival?
CW: I’m really looking forward to seeing how people will react to the benches and following people’s experiences on social media. I’m particularly excited to see how people local to South Molton Street will react – local businesses, as well as people just passing by on their daily commute. It’s a very special thing to be part of someone’s everyday life, to add to people’s local area. And of course, seeing and meeting other designers. I’m always inspired by other people.
London Design Festival takes place across the city from 14-22 September