As a new generation of architects and designers start to make their presence felt on the international design scene, Stacey Sheppard speaks to two young rising stars who are forging quite a name for themselves.
Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan may have only launched their design practice last October, but already there is a great deal of interest and anticipation surrounding the duo and their creative output. The new London-based practice, simply called Pernilla & Asif, is going from strength to strength as the critically acclaimed pair continue to surprise and excite with their innovative design and experimental architecture. Swedish-born Ohrstedt graduated from Central Saint Martins in London before going on to study for a Masters in Architecture at the Bartlett School, University College London (UCL). It was here that she won the Leverhulme Trust Grant for innovative and interdisciplinary work of outstanding potential and the UCL faculty prize for distinguished work in architectural theory.
Following this she was involved with Storefront for Art and Architecture, a non-profit organisation in New York that is committed to the advancement of innovative positions in architecture, art and design. Ohrstedt worked with gallery director Joseph Grima to co-create Storefront's first exhibition programme outside of New York. She also produced, designed and curated the gallery's programme and innovative architectural installations.
Her curatorial experience was further enhanced when she curated and directed the celebrated Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010. The following year Ohrstedt once again had the opportunity to work with Joseph Grima, this time as an architect on the Stazione Futuro, a monumental 4000m2 exhibition in Turin for the 150th Anniversary of the Reunification of Italy, curated by Riccardo Luna, the editor of Wired Italy.
Whilst Ohrstedt's design output has been largely international, spanning the disciplines of experimental art, architecture and curatorial practice, Khan has chosen to focus on architecture, industrial design and furniture, often combining these disciplines in new and unexpected ways. His work has been exhibited across the globe at numerous high profile design events, galleries and exhibitions including the likes of MoMA, MAXXI Museum Rome, Idée Tokyo Midtown, Design Museum London, Sawaya & Moroni, Salone Satellite, Milan Triennale,100% Design Tokyo and London Fashion Week.
His work has been very well received and resulted in him being chosen as Designer in Residence at the Design Museum in London and lead to him being awarded Designer of the Future by Design Miami last year.
Ohrstedt and Kahn have already carved out successful careers as individuals, but their recent studio launch sees them formalise their collaborative endeavours, which began when they met whilst studying architecture. They have since worked together on numerous experimental projects.
"Collaborative projects become successful because of the different experiences we have in our lives," explains Ohrstedt. "Asif has been running his own highly acclaimed design studio for five years, focusing both on architectural projects and product design and travelling to Tokyo, Italy, and Miami, both for commissions and design fairs and exhibitions."
Khan continues: "During the same period, Pernilla worked internationally with design, production, and curation, often heading up larger teams; in New York at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and as Director of Hylozoic Ground at the Canada Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010. We strive to keep feeding this diversity both individually and together."
Thanks to their unique approach, Ohrstedt and Khan have undertaken some impressive experimental projects, including Cloud, a slowly formed floating roof canopy made from helium gas, water and soap that was originally shown for Design Miami/Basel. In 2010, they collaborated on Harvest, a project for Design Museum London, which used foliage as a raw material for creating furniture.
More recently, they were commissioned by the British Council, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore to create the Future Memory Pavilion, a temporary pavilion for ArchiFest, Singapore's annual architecture festival. The installation comprised of two rope cones, one filled with sand and the other with ice and it was designed to address land and climate issues inherent to Singapore's history and future.
In their work, Ohrstedt and Khan draw upon their diverse experiences, often merging the fields of architecture, industrial design, sculpture, interior design, sensory stimulation, installation and technology. "Working closely with people from other disciplines tends to offer a lot of inspiration and creativity and these interdisciplinary collaborations are probably somewhat addictive," says Khan. "In the last year we have been working closely with both musicians, programmers and an outstanding mechatronics engineer specialized in fluid mechanics," adds Ohrstedt.
The recent collaborations that Ohrstedt mentions refer to the pairs' work for Coca-Cola. The company commissioned Pernilla & Asif to design an innovative Pavillion for the Olympic Park, one that would celebrate British youth in line with its Future Flames campaign to recognise and reward the positive contributions made by young people.
The iconic building will combine experimental architecture with cutting edge sound technology that will transform the building - named The Coca-Cola Beatbox - into a musical instrument. The creative concept will enable people to 'play' the Pavilion through interacting with sounds embedded within the architecture itself. Visitors will be able to create their own beat for London 2012 by remixing sounds of Olympic sports captured for an anthem that is being created for Coca-Cola by Grammy award-winning producer, Mark Ronson.
Ohrstedt and Khan say: "As Londoners we are really excited to be a part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Coca-Cola, a truly iconic brand, has believed in our practice's creativity and vision to represent them at London 2012, taking our unique architecture to a global audience.
"We have sought out some of the most innovative engineers in the UK to work with us to realise our vision - a 'building with a beat'. The Coca-Cola Beatbox will be a sensory experience that fuses design, music, sport and architecture. It will be something that people have never seen or heard before!"
For Coca-Cola, Pernilla & Asif was a natural choice of collaborator for this particular project. Maxine Chapman, Director of Showcasing, London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Project Team, The Coca-Cola Company, says: "Pernilla and Asif impressed us with their creativity, technical skills and vision. I'm delighted that we're able to give them such a fantastic opportunity to showcase their talents and passions on the world's stage. I have no doubt that every visitor to the park will be inspired by their innovative and ground-breaking design, both during and beyond London 2012."
Pernilla & Asif