Provocations: The Work of David Connor by Drew Plunkett is the first monograph on this influential and award-winning designer and is a highly illustrated volume featuring previously unpublished photos and drawings by Connor. The book is available now.
This book examines Connor's most significant projects, assessing his idiosyncratic working methods and identifying his influences and professional liaisons with partners, collaborators and clients. With beautiful illustrations and photographs, it considers the impact of his interior-design education on his architectural projects and the link between his drawing techniques and the particularity of his finished work.
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In the second half of the 1970s Britain was in crisis, destabilised by industrial disputes and economic recession and ready for change. Architecture and design were dealing with their own crisis. Ur-Modernism was running out of credibility. In 1977, Charles Jencks, in The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, produced a taxonomy of its dissenting strands and gave them respectability. Radical change was in the ether and it was neatly reflected in a volte-face in youth culture. Nihilistic punks of the 1970s were superseded by narcissistic New Romantics, the pioneers of the preening, prosperous and Postmodernist 1980s.
David Connor knew all about Postmodernism and, if he was just a little too old to engage sartorially with either punk or New Romanticism, he was in tune with the former’s iconoclasm, the latter’s subversive retrospection and the provocative self-expression of both. With two small interiors projects in 1981 and ’82, one broadly punk and one broadly New Romantic, he bewildered established interior design practitioners and energised their successors – those who were still students but would go on to transform the interiors of British high streets and the tastes of those who used them. In 1984, with the same recklessness he tackled his first major architectural project, for a grand country house in California. With no formal architectural training he brought very little philosophical baggage to that task and demonstrated how boisterous reinterpretation of precedents could produce something that was disconcertingly new.
His first published projects established him as a creative contrarian, congenitally disinclined to align with others or indeed to repeat himself. Unlike other leading figures he has not, over 40 years of practice, evolved a signature style. The constant in his creative processes is his readiness to understand each project’s particularities and to find a bespoke solution for it. He immerses himself in the opportunity each project offers and looks for something particular to it. That implied objectivity may suggest something close to the dour old definition of design as a problem-solving exercise, and he does plan meticulously, but he builds on those bare bones, to overlay prosaic efficiency with evocative flourishes that provoke the imagination and emotions.
He has stirred the imaginations and ambitions of young designers perhaps as much with his drawings as with his projects. He has demonstrated, if not an entirely new way of finding and evolving ideas, a new way of visualising them that has led him, and his acolytes, far beyond conventional solutions. He pays lip service to the laws of perspective but concentrates on explaining the experience of being in the space he is proposing.
The published drawings that helped make his reputation look like sketches made at an advanced point in the creative process; but they are more retrospective than that, made for presentations to clients to explain the experience he was offering and, given the backgrounds and predilections of his earliest clients, they struck the right note. When commissioning Connor one was not looking for a conventional professional service.
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Discover David Connor's very special studio space in the following video:
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Hardback • 152 Pages • Size: 250 × 190 mm
80 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848223516 • Publication: October 12, 2020
Series: Designing Interiors
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