A few years and a pandemic after editor Hamish Kilburn first put forward Rock Galpin as the designer that furniture brand Morgan should work with next, the collaboration has reached a milestone with the unveiling of the Lugano Collection. Ahead of its official reveal this week, Kilburn exclusively caught up with Galpin and Morgan to find out more…
I’m stood in Clerkenwell, a site myself and fellow design enthusiasts are familiar of. Although the streets are almost empty and the lights in many showrooms are switched off (for now) – it all looks so different post-pandemic – Dallington Street has a pulse running through it. There’s excitement in the September air as the Morgan showroom is about to shelter the official unveil of a new furniture collection. The Lugano Collection, designed by legendary furniture designer, Rock Galpin, has taken years to perfect – and London Design Festival 2021, four years since I first met the designer himself, is the perfect time (and place) for such an occasion.
It’s more than just another product launch affair for me. Believe it or not, I was the one who connected the brand with the designer a few years ago, before there were signs of a cultural shift – and planting a seed is all the credit I shall I claim with this collection. Following a few emails, the creative flair from both sides came together in harmony, with the aim to create a comfortable masterpiece for the brand to confront a new hospitality era.
Ahead of the official unveil, which takes place later this week, the team have kindly offered Hotel Designs the exclusive interview, for us to understand how this partnership evolved following our most meaningful introduction (to date)…
Hamish Kilburn: First things first, Rock, talk us through how this collection’s themes came about…
Rock Galpin: Personally I believe that the ‘quality of the experience’ of a design, of a product such as this, has become increasing more and more important. I believe we are now looking for design that serves us on a much higher level, beyond utilitarian needs, where greater levels of comfort, increased quality of experience of use, control, even empowerment with a more ethical stand point will enable a more meaningful outcome.
“The collection took shapes from simple wrap around forms that hug you – like a human hug.” – Rock Galpin.
To bring this back to the collection, the starting point for me was a simple one; to focus on comfort and what I associate with it. Warmth, being wrapped up, hugged, softness around, smoothness, soft forms and materials that we connect with, deriving from nurture and to be nurtured. The collection took shapes from simple wrap around forms that hug you – like a human hug. The frame supporting the user in a kind of protective nurturing cradle, with crafted paddle like legs extending up the sides and back.
As the forms and pieces started to take shape we looked further at materials and colour-ways from inspiration found in nature, one was beach pebbles, which particularly resonated with the collection for me. The experience of being on a beach and searching for that perfect pebble, that fits your hand beautifully, feeling so smooth and warm, with such beautiful colours… almost feeling like it was part of you. This in way is what I have tried to connect with and draw from in the collections typological design development, whilst retaining a certain definition.
HK: What were the major challenges when designing this collection?
RG: Creating a collection that somehow felt fondly familiar but that was also has its own unique personality, whilst potentially being timeless in appeal, is always and exciting challenge and demanding balance to try to get right. In addition there were some interesting challenges with the new method of manufacture in how the elements needed to come together to create one of the main benefits of the collection in interior schemes, that being to offer three distinctly different elements; back/arm rest, seat pad and frame giving many configurable different options, allowing interior designers further possibilities to express their signatures styles, whilst from a sustainable perspective increasing the products operational lifespan, by the option of high wear parts replacement.
HK: What was it like finalising this collection while not only dealing with time zones, but also while confronting a pandemic?
RG: I am certainly the type of person and designer who enjoys working closely, hands on, with clients throughout the whole process, so it was certainly challenging finding ways to communicate particularly with the fine complexities in artistic and design refinement, and ergonomics when there could be no direct contact in the Pandemic lock down. In addition with different timezones and the fact that the week ends and starts on different days in both countries does slow communication down a little, but we’ve found ways to address this.
HK: We have followed your work for a while now, but what’s different about this collection?
RG: My work, is quite often centred around human behaviour and experiences, with aspirations to push the boundaries of how our material world, in this case furniture can shape an improved life, with exciting materials, processes and technologies. This collection was a little different for me, in a sense that it was far more about a stripped back, more deeply routed project about connection with ‘us’, nature and timelessness. A more timeless collection that celebrates comfort, modern elegance and craftsmanship but one that also take takes a purposeful step forward.
Quick-fire round with Erin Johnson, Design Manager, Morgan
HK: In a sentence, describe the Lugano Collection?
Erin Johnson: Lugano is a collection of dining and lounge chairs, inspired by the idea of ‘nurture’, interpreted through form and balance between individual elements and material compositions.
HK: Tell us more about the name of the collection…
EJ: The collection is named after Lake Lugano, located in southern Switzerland’s Italian Ticino region. Lake Lugano reflects the floating quality of the chair’s seat which, along with the body, floats within the timber frame that cradles them.
HK: What three words would you use to describe working with Rock?
EJ: Vision, perfection, clarity.
HK: Can we expect more collaborative collections by Morgan and Rock?
EJ: We thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Rock on the Lugano collection. Rock strives for perfection, which is a quality we admire and try to embody ourselves. He challenged us to look at structure and strength of different construction methods, looking at the relationship between frame and body in ways we’ve never explored. So yes, we’d be very open to working with Rock again on future collections.
HK: As a furniture designer, what have you learned throughout this collection with Morgan?
RG: Every project is always an incredible learning process and this project has been no exception. From understanding Morgan’s perspective, the team’s passion for design, their in-house craftsmanship to the limitations and streamlining skills necessary for production to reach beautifully balanced product collections, much has been learnt. It’s a pleasure to work with a manufacturer, such as Morgan, who is prepared to take the time a design really needs to take to create the best outcome, from overall concept to the smallest subtle detail and pricing.
HK: What can we expect next from you?
Well I am sworn to secrecy, but there is wind of a new collaboration or two, working on some exciting new furniture projects with some very interesting materials and processes.
In stark contrast I have also been working on an incredibly challenging project for The Ministry of Justice over the last two years, to design and develop an exciting collection of beds for prison cell use by in mates in UK prisons. The collection is currently being prototyped by The Ministry of Justice.
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Main image credit: Rock Galpin/Morgan/Ed Reeve