Rooms with a view

Location, location, location. The British Council took this maxim to heart for its latest design exhibition. Conventional gallery space was spurned for the Ultravision show in favour of The Central Club Hotel, a youth hostel-style building on London’s Great Russell Street. The council took over a whole floor, with the displays set up in the spartan bedrooms.

Kirsty Dias, British Council design promotion project manager, set a number of designers the task of creating images for a new form of ad hoarding called protomatic poster displays. The unit, known as The Chameleon, displays three images in sequence, giving the illusion of one image dissolving into the next over an eight-second period.

Each designer was asked to come up with three images, but the brief was left open. “I just wanted them to respond to the potential of the unit,” says Dias. Participants include Tank Design from Glasgow, North, Jonathan Barnbrook, Pentagram partner Angus Hyland, Tomato and Graven Images.

While each unit is unique, certain themes and approaches become apparent. Dias points out that several designers have chosen to explore national identity. Graven Images’ Devolution Fatigue features a jumble of Scottish regions in combat colours. Bump, which also designed the exhibition, uses the Union Flag.

Colour has been put to good use. North uses yellow and red zigzags, Peter Saville’s psychedelic forms melt effectively into one another, and Senaid Mackay has photographed a scene of a basin at a window, which transforms from day to night.

Illustration and photography are both employed, perhaps to the best effect by Blue Source. A profile of a man sitting in a car morphs from illustration to line drawing to photograph.

While the units are pretty engaging in their own right, the venue adds an unusual feel to the event. Mike Watson at Bump had looked for gallery space, but had not seen anything that would do the units justice. The idea of using the hotel rooms seemed to fit in with the spirit of the exhibition. “The units had never been to London before, so we put them up in a hotel,” he says.

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