It’s the dilemma facing many an organisation big and small – how to engage with the Olympics without resorting to the clumsiest sort of bandwagon-jumping. Wary of this but eager to make a start, Dezeen this week launched Designed in Hackney to showcase the amazing array of architecture and design talent which can be found in the borough, with a different creative to be posted every day between now and the start of the games. We spoke to Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs about the project, what makes Hackney special and why some favouritism is inevitable…
“I think the name Designed in Hackney has the right mix of grandeur and hopeless parochialism,” Marcus told us from us his Stoke Newington headquarters. “I think we just about get away with it.”
Even though Dezeen has been looking to do something to celebrate Hackney for some time, Marcus admits that it was the Olympics “hovering on the horizon” that provided added impetus. But he admits that he and his team “flip-flopped” on the name – they even jettisoned an alternative just days before the eventual launch.
“For a long time we have been really aware that we are a big global brand but we are embedded in a community. We are super proud of being up here in Stoke Newington and all the talented designers who are in our postcode – people like Okay Studio, Roger Arquer…
“As the world gets more and more globalised where people choose to base themselves is more and more important.”
Uncertainty over where people will end up congregating during the Olympics made a physical event too risky and so the idea of the online feature was born.
“Hackney still has these connotations which can be quite negative – people think it’s a bit dark, a bit east, a bit crime-infested. But if you associate the borough with all these beautiful, creative, fantastic stuff you can change people’s perceptions.
“Hopefully we can make people aware of the talent that exists here and maybe some of the journalists or bigwigs might make a detour here in the run up to the Olympics.”
Despite having kicked off the project with Olympic Torch designers BarberOsgerby and other big names like Jasper Morrison in the pipeline, Marcus insists this is not just about big-names.
“We started with some established names just to make a point, but that’s BarberOsgerby done, they’re not getting featured again. We’re already getting lots of emails and we’re just as likely to run something from someone we have never heard of. The same editorial eye that chooses what goes on the site on a normal day will come into play but we hope we will be surprised by some of the things we trawl up.”
The reaons for the extraordinary creative scene in Hackney boils down to a few key factors in Marcus’ mind.
“When you’re starting out you look for somewhere that’s a bit cheaper and parts of Hackney are still relatively affordable. There’s also quite a lot of space – you can still find amazing, big warehouses that haven’t been turned into loft apartments yet.
“Young designers also want somewhere a bit edgy, a bit raw – you are not going to set up a cutting-edge studio in Kensington. And you also get a cluster effect – if your mates are there and people you look up to than you head there too. You see all these amazing designers in the pubs round here, you bump into them at the swimming pool, you see them cycling to the park in the summer. There’s that sense of people gathering together.”
The eye-catching identity has been designed by Dezeen’s neighbours and long-time collaborators Zerofee and Marcus admits that he will find it hard not to promote his fellow Stoke Newington types.
“If you’re N16 you’re a shoo-in,” he laughs. “There will definitely be some favouritism!”
Clearly all parts of Hackney are equal, but some are more equal than others. But it’s the borough as a whole that is the focus. “I think Hackney just needs a little bit of a push to be associated with amazing, world-class design. Hopefully we can help with that.”