British artist and designer Camille Walala has created the Walala Lounge, taking up an entire Mayfair street that has been transformed into an urban living room, as one of the highlights of the London Design Festival (LDF) 2019. Commissioned by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland to revitalise South Molton Street in Mayfair, Walala addresses its lack of public spaces to sit, rest and socialise. A few steps from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, South Molton is fully pedestrianised and lined with boutiques and cafés. However, despite being a sunny thoroughfare popular among both Londoners and visitors, the 200m street has not–until now–offered the public a place to pause. A long-standing advocate of urban design’s capacity to inspire joy, Walala and her team, headed by creative producer Julia Jomaa, set out to create a collection of street furniture that would both solve a practical problem and spark joy among visitors passing through.
The Walala Lounge, a set of 10 sculptural benches, accompanied by planters – some freestanding and some integrated into the structure of the benches – and a series of oversized flags that are strung, bunting-style along shopfront, completing the conversion of South Molton Street into an immersive and colourful corridor.
Designed to feel like an open-air urban living room, Walala Lounge will provide a place for people to come together, chat and relax. Walala’s objective is to bring pleasure to public spaces while also meeting a site-specific functional need. “I wanted to push myself by creating another style of public art to make people smile again. This time, I have designed public benches, where people can feel at home, surrounded by plants and rugs. I want to create a place where people can gather, appreciate their surroundings and enjoy the city. I love the idea of bringing an element of fun to the street, weaving colour and joy into a city which is sometimes lacking in both,” says Walala.
The designs are the result of an exploratory creative process whereby Walala selects a family of geometric shapes, defines a colour palette and creates a series collages, experimenting with different compositions until she settles on a particular combination. By merging these patterns with furniture forms found in the home, Walala’s studio developed a unique but effective method of designing sculptural street furniture. Composed of an array of cuboids, cylinders and arches made from brushed steel and Tricoya® MDF, the 10 benches translate the geometric patterns and block shapes familiar from Walala’s distinctive murals into three-dimensional form.
In the past, Walala has worked on the LDF 2017 project called Villa Walala, a playful castle installation constructed from soft vinyl building block. In 2018, she developed the complete creative vision for the Salt of Palmar hotel in Mauritius. Unlike many LDF installations, the Walala Lounge will stay in place long after the end of the festival, becoming a semi-permanent addition to Mayfair.