April design news: the Dr Dolittle of design, an algae air purifier and Habitat at 60 | Design

This month’s news celebrates animals, craft and creativity. We’ve got a story on the upcoming London Craft Week, but don’t forget Clerkenwell Design Week. This vibrant district is home to fascinating studios and businesses, and this annual festival is always well worth a visit.

An update of the legendary chicken brick alongside other products from the collection Habitat 60 Years of Design. Photograph: Jon Day/Habitat

In 1964, entrepreneur Terence Conran founded the homeware brand Habitat and changed the way British people furnished their houses. The European sensibility of Conran’s store was a wake-up call to aspirational homemakers, and for decades the brand was a byword for sophisticated style. Recently there have been some bumps in the road. When Habitat was bought in 2016 and its designs shifted to being sold in Sainsbury’s supermarkets and online, it looked like the glory days were over.

But with the upcoming 60 Years of Design collection, Habitat is going to make its mark on our homes again. Leading designers, including Margo Selby, Tord Boontje and Conran’s son Sebastian have contributed to this special collection, which pays homage to some of Habitat’s biggest hits. Yes – the chicken brick is in there, and the bistro chair. Emerging talents Simone Brewster, ceramicist Silvia Kamodyová and furniture maker Planq are also guest designers.

“Habitat is renowned for flying the flag of British design,” said Andrew Tanner, head of design at Habitat. “We have revisited and reimagined some of our most iconic products. The 60 Years of Design collection brings together a historic palette of primary colours, tactility and new materials to champion the next 60.”

Habitat 60 Years of Design collection launches online and in selected Sainsbury’s stores in May. Prices start from £4

Porky Hefer’s bush baby seat, 2024. Photograph: HaydenPhipps&SGuild

Growing up on a farm in South Africa, Porky Hefer developed real affinity with the animals around him. “I learnt to understand them and see the difference in their personalities.” His early experiences are influential in his design practice today: Hefer runs design studio Animal Farm, which creates buildings and furniture inspired by nature, including nests for humans, but his best-known works are undoubtedly his animal seats.

His large-scale sculptures of creatures, ranging from orangutans to toucans, are designed to be sat on, laid on and cuddled. They are intentionally cartoon-cute as he wants to appeal to children, but they have a serious purpose. “So many kids growing up in big cities have a default response of fear and hostility to wild animals. You have to love animals to protect them.” He would like us all to reconsider our relationship with the natural world and the animals that live in it. His latest show is called No Bats No Chocolate, a reference to the bat’s role as a pollinator for plants that humans rely on for food and medicine – including the cacao tree. “We’ve been taught we’re higher up in the pecking order and that animals don’t have souls, but they so obviously do.”

No Bats No Chocolate is at Galerie56 New York from 30 April-26 August

The air purifier from EcoLogic Studio’s PhotoSynthetica collection. Photograph: ©Pepe Fotografia

At Milan Design Week this month, architecture and design practice EcoLogic Studio showcased the creative power of algae. The core of PhotoSynthetica collection is the AIReactor, a biotechnological air purifier that uses algae to remove pollutants from the environment. The biowaste from this process then provides the raw materials to create biopolymers used to 3D-print a range of objects, including a stool.

The air purifier is made from birch plywood, glass and micro-algae, which can all be reused or recycled. The algae absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants while oxygenating the air. The air passing through the micro-algae even makes a soothing bubbling sound – an added bonus. EcoLogic Studio reports that the air purifier has the same carbon capturing potential as a mature tree and is engineered to be carbon neutral for its entire lifecycle.

The PhotoSynthetica range is the culmination of five years of research and development. “This collection is born from the dream of growing the city of the future from the waste and pollution of our current fossil civilisation,” says Dr Marco Poletto of EcoLogic Studio. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air.

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Online vintage furniture shop Merchant&Found opens a Soho superstore for London Craft Week. Photograph: London

This year marks the 10th anniversary of London Craft Week (LCW) and the annual celebration of creativity and making is set to be suitably celebratory, with a raft of new events. Craftworks debuts as a hub in east London at Shoreditch Town Hall. Jay Blades of TV show The Repair Shop is the force behind this event, which celebrates the practical and emotional value of crafts and skill. The programme includes education for crafters, zero-waste making and a look at endangered skills. Soho will be home to a massive vintage supermarket curated by vintage furniture brand Merchant & Found. The aim is to celebrate forgotten craft and to show appreciation for makers’ work through the ages.

There’s also Secret Ceramics – an exhibition of 100 vessels which will all be sold at £300, with the maker of each work only revealed after the sale. Finally, Modern Masters is a free outdoor programme of contemporary art which celebrates the role of craft in art. The first edition will feature work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.

“It seems like yesterday that we launched the first LCW. Now, in our 10th year, we host over 225,000 visitors, 520 events and 700 artists and makers,” says Guy Salter, chairman of LCW. “I hope we have contributed to London’s cultural credentials and reinforced the importance of making.”

London Craft Week runs 13-19 May. Venue and exhibition details available on the LCW website

Gemini salt and pepper grinders, 1997, designed by Marc Newson for Alessi. Photograph: Taschen

Marc Newson is one of the best-known designers working today. Newson, who originally trained as a jewellery designer back in his native Australia, has worked on pretty much every possible sort of product during his career. He designed the Apple watch with his friend Sir Jony Ive and has made everything from luggage and office chairs to binoculars and reclinable aeroplane seats. He hasn’t quite made the kitchen sink but, with his range of plumbing fixtures and his bathroom suite for Ideal Standard, he comes pretty close.

A new Taschen monograph provides one of the most comprehensive surveys of his remarkable career. Each product description explores the story behind, and the making of, the piece. In fact, author Alison Castle makes a very pertinent request in her introduction. “You will be drawn to the pictures, but please don’t forget to read this book. More often than not, something that seems simple will reveal itself to have been the fruit of a Daedalain effort.” It’s advice worth remembering as you delve into these pages.

Marc Newson. Works 84-24 (Taschen) is out now

This month’s news highlights animals, craft, and creativity. There’s a story on the upcoming London Craft Week, as well as a reminder about Clerkenwell Design Week. This lively district is home to intriguing studios and businesses, and the annual festival is always a worthwhile visit.

In 1964, entrepreneur Terence Conran founded the homeware brand Habitat, revolutionizing British home furnishings. Despite some challenges in recent years, Habitat is set to make a comeback with the upcoming 60 Years of Design collection. Featuring designs by leading creators like Margo Selby, Tord Boontje, and Sebastian Conran, this special collection pays tribute to Habitat’s iconic products. The collection also includes contributions from emerging talents like Simone Brewster, Silvia Kamodyová, and Planq.

At Milan Design Week, EcoLogic Studio showcased the AIReactor, an air purifier that uses algae to remove pollutants from the environment. The biowaste from this process is then used to create biopolymers for 3D-printed objects, including a stool. The collection is the result of five years of research and development and aims to create a more sustainable future.

London Craft Week celebrates its 10th anniversary with a range of new events, including Craftworks in Shoreditch, Secret Ceramics, and Modern Masters. The event aims to highlight the value of craftsmanship and making, showcasing the work of artists and makers. London Craft Week runs from 13-19 May, with details available on the LCW website.

A new Taschen monograph explores the career of designer Marc Newson, known for his diverse range of products. The book delves into the stories behind each piece, revealing the intricate efforts behind seemingly simple designs. “Marc Newson. Works 84-24” is now available for those interested in learning more about this prolific designer.