Characterized by its emphasis on experimentation and innovation, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s approach involves exploring attitude to materiality and color. After founding their studio Barber Osgerby in 1996, their work has inspired and explored realms of design in London and abroad for over two decades. Their focus is on solutions that reflect the close relationship of their work with industrial processes and new technologies, but also its affinities with fine art. Their partnership has resulted in a diverse output in collaboration with a number of world’s most progressive companies around architecture, interiors, sculpture, product design and exhibition spaces. Many examples of their work have been presented in the permanent collections of the V&A and the Design Museum in London, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Olympic Museum in Switzerland, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany and The Design Museum, Munich, Germany.

They also founded Universal Design Studio to function simultaneously with their primary studio which focused on the fields of architecture, interiors and exhibition design and is now recognised as one of the world’s most innovative creative design consultancies.

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Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber in their London studio_© Jessica Klingelfuss

1. The Olympic Torch, 2012 LOCOG

Developed for the 2012 Olympic games held in London, the form of the torch had been formulated keeping in mind the pattern of trinities and also the fact that the 2012 games were the third to take place in London. Facilitating a strong grip with its shape and perforation, 8000 laser-cut circles on its surface symbolized 8000 individuals who would carry it in 70 days through the opening ceremony. In terms of functionality, it contributed towards a notable reduction in weight and quick heat dissipation to avoid conduction towards the handle. It is part of permanent collections of the V&A, the Design Museum in London, the Olympic museum in Switzerland, and the private collection of the Royal College of Art, London.

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Models and prototypes of the Olympic Torch, 2012_©David Brook
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Olympic Torch, LOCOG, 2012_©Sandro Sodano
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Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games,2012_Barber Osgerby

2. Loop Table, 1996, Isokon Plus

Designed in 1996 for Isokon Plus, it was the studio’s first furniture collaboration for an architectural project that had a requirement of a low table with storage. With clear and clean contemporary sensibility, the design emphasized on restrained use of materials that evolved from a handmade model of folded and slotted cardboard. The two curved plywood elements connect seamlessly to form a loop. Two panels with half of the table’s width are slotted in the loop to act as supporting legs producing cantilevers on either side. It is part of the permanent collections of the V&A, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Loop Table, Isokon Plus, 1996_© David Brook

3. Puzzle Tile, Mutina 2016

Experimenting with geometric forms, the puzzle collection was developed through a series of physical models exploring compositions that help determine the exact layout of the patterns on the tiles. The color palette was inspired by European islands with specific shades. It allowed a vast range of patterns, colors, and combinations.

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Puzzle wall, Mutina headquarters, Fiorano, Italy, 2016_©Matteo Pastorio
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Puzzle wall, Mutina headquarters, Fiorano, Italy, 2016 _©Matteo Pastorio

4. The Pacific Chair, 2016, Vitra

Following the principle of ‘full performance, quiet design’ the Pacific Chair designed in collaboration with Vitra works via a mechanism that responds to the weight of the individual. The additional lumbar support while being seated is provided below designed in a manner where no mechanical parts are visible from behind with an exception for the base. The Pacific Chairs have been used widely in the Apple Office in Cupertino, California.

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Pacific chair in low high and medium, aluminium, polyamide, polyurethane, foam padding, fabric upholstery, Vitra, 2016_ Vitra courtesy, Marc Eggimann
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Pacific chair poster, 2016_©Vitra

5. RIBA Desk, 2006

The headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects is an established landmark in London strongly influenced by arts and crafts throughout its interior and exterior where many details have been collaborations with notable artists of the time. With a functionally compromised reception desk from the 70s, RIBA approached the studio in 2006 for a two-seater technologically equipped desk for their entry foyer. The result was a formal yet visually appealing piece that emerged from months of model making.

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RIBA Desk, Stainless steel, black glass, The Royal Institute of British Architects, 2006_©Lee Mawdsley
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Desk ready for delivery at the manufacturers, 2008_ ©David Brook

6. Paris Shelves

ClassiCon approached Barber Osgerby for a project requiring bookshelves with a system that could be assembled without any use of mechanical fixtures. The set of shelves have reversible brackets allowing it to be accessible from both sides. The design is modular, inspired by the usual shelving systems constructed with stacked bricks and wood. Here, the bricks are reimagined as steel brackets that act as dividers as well as bookends precisely cut in the composite board for increased stability.

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Paris, powder-coated composite board, steel, ClassiCon, 2004_©Lee Funnell

7. Soft Work System, 2018, Vitra

With technological advancements people can and work from anywhere, Soft Work was a response facilitating interaction, unlike the regular work desks. The sofa system acts as a versatile seating landscape with pivoting tables, partition screens, and sockets between the cushions to divide it into zones. The system is modular, increasing flexibility and allowing scope to restructure according to the needs.

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Soft Work development sketch, 2018, Vitra_©Barber Osgerby Studio
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Soft Work, 2018, Vitra and Tip Ton, Vitra, 2011_©Vitra
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Soft Work, 2018, Vitra_©Vitra

8. Tab Lamp, 2007, Flos

Even though the first initial idea translated into the finished product, it took four years of development. A ceramic reflector under the folded aluminum shade provided a softer effect. This stood out as a simplistic and versatile design that can be used as a lamp but also as ambient light. The range has multiple variants which include a floor-standing version. It is also a part of the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

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Tab Lamps, Designers of the Year installation, Maison et Objet, Paris, 2013_©Stéphane Muratet
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Tab Lamp, Flos, 2007_©Flos
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Double Tab Lamp, Flos, 2007_©David Brook

9. The Iris Table, 2008, Established & Sons

Designed for a gallery in London, The Iris is an edition of furniture that allows experimentation with materials and various techniques. Three different areas of interest drove the project. The final form was determined after extensive research and implementation. Five iterations were a part of the exhibition with different colored components.

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Iris 1300, dimensions 1300 x 1300 x 400mm, Established & Sons, 2008_©Peer Lindgreen
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Iris 1200, dimensions 1200 x 1200 x 390mm, Established & Sons, 2008_© Peer Lindgreen
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Iris 1500, dimensions 1500 x 1500 x 410mm, Established & Sons, 2008_© Peer Lindgreen

10. Paddle Door and Window Handle, 2021, Olivari

This prototype emerged from an observation that door handles are more often pushed downwards with the palm than they are gripped. The final form emerged with an increased area of contact at the top. 

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Paddle door and window handle for Olivari in the Barber Osgerby studio, 2021_© Barber Osgerby Studio
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Paddle door and window handle for Olivari in the Barber Osgerby studio, 2021_© Barber Osgerby Studio

References:

  1. Barberosgerby.com. 2021. Barber Osgerby. [online] Available at: https://barberosgerby.com/  
Author

Prachita Rijhwani is an architecture graduate and a passionate musician. A keen observer and a curious learner, you will always find her exploring a new hobby. When it comes to design, she believes it to be the best medium to express innovation and logic together.

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