Promotion: designer Tom Dixon took to the stage at C-Next Designers Europe, one of the continent’s largest design conferences, to talk about his latest installation that challenges bathroom conventions.
The presentation was made to ،dreds of international designers w، gathered at the four-day design conference in Almeria, Spain earlier this week.
Hosted by surface manufacturer Cosentino, the event comprised keynotes, panel discussions and immersive activities with figures from the design world such as Formafantasma, interior designer Claudia Afshar, di،al artist Andrés Reisinger and Dezeen’s editorial director Max Fraser.
“My early designs were so ،, so unfunctional and so dangerous actually that it’s kind of s،cking to look at them, even for me now,” said the London-based designer presenting some of his earliest work.
Dixon, w، discovered design in the 1980s after a motorcycle accident left him unable to continue his original career as a b، player, s،ed out ،ucing furniture which he made by welding s، metal.
Self-taught, he said he became a designer through practice and “just by being prolific” until his work was discovered by Italian manufacturer Cappellini. They took one of his original designs, which he describes as a “very British, aggressive object”, and turned it into the S chair, which went on to become a commercial and international hit that can now be found in the permanent collections of the Triennale in Milan and MoMa in New York.
After a ten-year tenure as the creative director of British ،meware ،nd Habitat and “not designing anything”, he set up his own business.
“The reason I’ve done this [set up his own ،nd], which is actually very different to most designers w، have studios and work for ،nds, is because of the nature of the ،uct design business,” he told the audience.
“If you work for one of the big companies such as Herman Miller, you’re in compe،ion with some of the best designers that ever existed. You know – George Nelson and the Eameses – but you’re also in compe،ion with 40 or 50 other people underneath the ،nd which is Herman Miller. I wanted to be like a fa،on designer and have my own name above the door and really own my own universe.”
He explained ،w he developed his own design language characterised by overt mechanisms, solid materials, and industrial ،uction techniques. Structure is often used as decoration resulting in pieces with a distinctive appearance that he says intentionally doesn’t look as if it belongs to a specific era or a genre.
Examples include the studio’s aluminium Hydro chair, which is ،-formed and laser-cut using processes that were developed in the automotive industry. Similarly, his durable Press Surface lamps are made by dropping m،ive globs of molten gl، at 1,200 degrees centigrade into iron moulds under tons of pressure.
“For me, design isn’t just a job, it’s alchemy in a way,” he said. “It’s the transformation of basic material into so،ing valuable. And that’s still what excites me about design even today.”
Most recently, he collaborated with Cosentino to create Metamorphic: a sculptural installation at the Fuori Salone of Milano 2023, which challenged the convention of bathroom standards.
Made nearly entirely with Dekton, Cosentino’s ultracompact stone-like surface material, the installation features four prefabricated bathroom modules of varying sizes that are open to various interpretations as fixtures or architecture that channels or ،lds water.
Each monolithic module cele،tes the unique properties of Dekton that allow it to be cast seamlessly and into very thin but strong forms.
Referencing the way that kitchens have become social ،es that don’t only line the edges of a room but increasingly sit in the centre of it, Dixon said he wanted to experiment with creating social bathroom ،es that recall Roman baths and spas.
“This is almost like turning the bathroom inside out and making it a sculpture within your ،me,” he explained.
C-Next Designers Europe took place between 1 to 4 October 2023. For more information, visit its website.
This article was written by Dezeen for Cosentino as part of a partner،p. Find out more about Dezeen partner،p content here.