On Repeat

Fostering creative thinking

A participatory public installation created during the London Design Festival

Our first major public installation at the annual London Design Festival was created in collaboration with longtime client The Office Group (TOG). ‘On Repeat ' was born from the idea that it is possible to induce a peaceful state of mind known as ‘open awareness’ through performing repetitive, manual tasks that allow the mind to wander and creative thinking to flourish.

The pavilion — which invited public engagement throughout the Festival with a series of participatory workshops — was made using a simple repeating timber structure and was decorated with a collaborative installation made up of hundreds of paper lanterns.

Our shared agenda with TOG focused on exploring aspects of work and creativity in a way that connected the brain with the hands. We wanted to take this theoretical idea and apply it to everything from the architectural design itself, to the graphics and programming of the space. A key ambition for the installation was also to bring people together around shared activities and provide a social hub for the busy design festival.

It was important to us to create a singular space that would embody the power of frequency and repetition. We were interested in the aesthetic potential of following a simple rule and being rigorously disciplined about it. As a result, the structure was made from a few simple elements applied on repeat, such as the slender timber slats that formed the permeable outer skin, and a single size of cross-laminated timber that made up the structural posts and beams. A 9m long table made of the cross-laminated timber with simple stools formed the centrepiece for the programme of activities.

We investigated an area of research in neuroscience that focused on the notion that daydreaming was far from a useless malfunction of the brain, but rather a source of truly innovative thinking. The hypothesis formulated by American psychologist Daniel Goleman among others, is that focused and selective attention on a problem or task generates a lens through which we see the world, filtering out unrelated ideas. While this is important to improve and develop established ideas, it can be hindering in the early stages of brainstorming. Creativity is, after all, to some extent, the experience of connecting the previously unconnected. Focusing too hard means we may never see the truly interesting concept just outside of our task frame.

A series of workshops put together by design writer and curator Henrietta Thompson activated the pavilion throughout the Festival week and further explored repetition. London-based textile artist Donna Wilson hosted a pom-pom making class, graphic artist Michael James Lewis held a drawing workshop, there were meditative breathing classes, sushi and ravioli making courses, and a talk delivered by Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham of London studio Patternity that addressed how pattern can create positive change.

During times with no programming, visitors were invited to create simple paper lanterns that gradually filled the ceiling of the pavilion over the course of the festival—a beautiful, visual manifestation of collective productivity.