Readers who have spent any amount of time eating eggs in the presence of architects will doubtless have been told that the humble ovum is one of the most structurally perfect shapes occurring in nature. Although its shell is thin, it is able to withstand disproportionate pressure due to its curvature; much the same combination of load-bearing strength and elegance can be seen in the use of arches and domes throughout the history of architecture. When you add in the symbolism of the egg – it represents the act of creation, the very building blocks of life – it’s little wonder that the foodstuff finds such favour among the architectural community.

During the week of the 2009 London Design Festival, there was ample opportunity to eat eggs in the presence of architects – or, failing that, would-be architects. At Tom Dixon’s showroom complex in Portobello Dock – a remote sector of Ladbroke Grove that has recently been spruced up, rebuilt, gentrified and generally regenerated – a temporary installation known as the Hatch was dedicated to the twin pleasures of cookery and the gestation of ideas. “A lot of people were confused because there was nothing to buy,” says Faye Toogood, of the eponymous Studio Toogood, which created the project. A former magazine stylist (her name will be familiar to longtime World of Interiors readers), she has in recent years specialised in styling and set design for clients such as Liberty and Dover Street Market, as well as certain other design magazines. (Studio Toogood was also responsible for the decoration of Dixon’s showroom here at Portobello Dock.) This, then, is something new in the Studio Toogood oeuvre – a project she could immerse herself in without being yoked to the specific needs of magazine editors or commercial clients. Here in the Hatch there are no products to push or services to sell, but there are building blocks to be manipulated, and eggs to be beaten and eaten.

The main part of the space looks a little like the set of a BBC children’s programme as designed by those doyens of in-your-face Postmodernism, the Memphis group. It is crammed with monolithic polyhedra that bring to mind the brash 1960s cabinets designed by Memphis patriarch Ettore Sottsass 20 years earlier. Surfaces are either covered in eye-searing Formica laminate or painted with bold patterns: spots, stripes, checks, triangular shards, bricks, teardrops, lightning bolts, frenzied squiggles, zigzags, dense agglomerations of lines – like a virus viewed through a microscope – and what appear to be fragments of the London 2012 Olympic logo are all represented. Much of the palette is derived from the work of David Hockney, and a number of the motifs are, too. A pattern of curved breves on a white background, for example, resembles the mural the painter created for the bottom of the swimming pool at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. (In a case of all-too-predictable bureaucratic interference, this led to the pool’s immediate closure, on the grounds that Hockney’s design might confuse the lifeguards.)

“I like the fact that it draws on all periods of 20th-century design,” says Faye. Indeed, details have been poached from various different eras – the harsh geometry of Vorticism, the graphic diagonals of Pop artist Derek Boshier, and a touch of Abigail’s Party-style petit-bourgeois sophistication (in the form of occasional mahogany-effect veneer surfaces) are all scrambled up together. But the dominant theme, without a doubt, is 1980s Postmodernist design. “It’s mostly the 1980s,” Faye concedes. “I’m a child of the 1980s, after all.”

Across the room, the giant building blocks have scaled-down counterparts. A specially built table with a shallow trough in the middle displays models of four buildings selected by the Modern House, an estate agent that deals in properties designed by the 20th- and 21st-century architects (and for which Studio Toogood offers a decoration service, to bring the newly purchased interior up to scratch). The four models are miniature pastel-coloured representations of David Levitt’s rakishly sloping Ansty Plum in Dorset, Phillip Dowson’s Case Study-style Long Wall in Suffolk, Christopher Nicholson’s early-Modernist Studio North in Hampshire, and Ernö Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower in London’s East End. Punters are given the option of re-creating one of these with the blocks provided, or of being a real egghead and coming up with an entirely original creation. On the day of our visit, local primary-school children were avidly constructing their own interpretations of the Balfron’s west London sibling, the Trellick Tower, and just as avidly knocking them down again.

Hatching out ideas is hungry work, and the brain food provided is, inevitably, that protein-rich little ovoid of cholesterol known as the egg. An interactive egg bar has been laid on, with a clutch of make-it-yourself recipes including such Italianate delights as stracciatella soup, passatelli broth or the exotic-sounding uovo in camicia, otherwise known as “poached egg”. This being interactive, visitors crack and beat the eggs themselves, as well as contributing their own eggy recipes to an evolving cookbook (one which currently includes egg “eyes” with olive pupils, Turkish kaygana and an egg-based fighting game from Bulgaria).

Like the cookbook, the Hatch is bound up in the idea of evolution, of building on past concepts to create something new. So which came first, the chic interior or the egg? “The idea gradually evolved,” says Faye. “It’s about doing something that’s intended to be seen in three dimensions, instead of from a single angle like a magazine shoot.” In other words, after the idea hatched, it grew into something that could not be contained by a double-page spread. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the space in a way that merely turning a page could never quite convey. And the installation engages a full range of senses that, sadly, cannot be captured by ink on paper, what with the clatter of tumescent towers toppling to the tabletop, the tang of the passatelli, and the scent of frothing egg whites as someone whips up a zabaglione. “You don’t get scratch ’n’ sniff magazines,” notes Faye.


First published in World of Interiors issue 328. Reproduced with permission.

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