London-based design studio Kellenberger-White is known for its experimental and process-led approach to typography. Founded by Eva Kellenberger and Sebastian White, the designers forge a multidisciplinary practice focusing on communication through innovative visual languages. This is particularly noticeable in Alphabet a series of typographic chairs encouraging passers-by to interact with the 26 letter-chairs within the lively atmosphere of Finsbury’s Broadgate, created by the studio for this year’s London Design Festival.
The site-specific installation “came about through visits to Broadgate and conversations around the space of the site combined with our interest in typography”, explains Eva and Sebastian. One building in particular, the London Exchange House, triggered a flurry of ideas spanning over the Liverpool Street tracks and acts as “a sort of hybrid bridge-building with a distinctive facade that exposes the building’s construction”. The building’s architecture embodies the city’s modernism and simultaneously pays tribute to its industrial history through the juxtaposition of shiny glass and crafted ironwork. Kellenberger-White recalled a recent research project into the use of international marine paint on bridges which consequently developed into the initial ideas for Alphabet.
Eva and Sebastian took a hands-on approach to the manufacturing process of the alphabet chairs. “We are keen to explore how design can make process visible, so people can understand how something is made”, the designers explain. As a studio, Kellenberger-White designed a simple typeface based on two line lengths, generating letterforms that resemble “the folded edges of a sheet of paper”. This typeface became the “starting point for the 3D work, introducing human measurements and ergonomics for outdoor seating through prototypes made up of several folded pieces of paper”. With the help of production company Scena, they drew up construction drawings, translating the “the notion of folded paper into folded metal”. The three-dimensional alphabet chairs reflect similar themes of the London Exchange House; historic materials combine with contemporary design to echo the city’s architecturally diverse landscape.
Kellenberger-White cite Bruno Munari’s experimental text Seeking comfort in an uncomfortable chair and Bruce McLean’s Pose Works as significant reference points during research into total, open-ended interaction. “It has become apparent that there is a very strong human element to this project”, explain Eva and Sebastian. “The interaction with the letters is similar to seeing people play with the wet sand on a beach or writing their names in newly poured concrete on the floor. People use it in a personal way to communicate or play with people they know. Others make bolder statements, recently a child made a kitchen set with some letters”.
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