The Playbox - Clerkenwell Design Week

The Play Box Daytime View


Shape London have been working in collaboration with Fraher Architects on a bespoke compact installation for the 2017 Clerkenwell Design Week. Shape London create bespoke furniture from concept design, to manufacture and installation. This creative collaboration has allowed Shape to combine the director's previous architectural, design and joinery expertise. As regular visitors to Clerkenwell Design Week, we sought to be involved this year with the aim of creating something that can be enjoyed by all users, whilst supporting the social dynamic that is inherent to the festival.

The Playbox was initially presented as a 1200mm x 600mm unit, based on a standard double cupboard. The concept was to manipulate and activate each elevation in every detail. The Playbox would store items that support the user's experience, facilitating a place to entertain, socialise and play. It was conceived as a mobile unit that would visit different sites during the festival around Clerkenwell. The Playbox will be made at Shape London's 5000 sqft workshop and embodies a number of working details, each integrated handle design will vary, each door will open uniquely, with the box reverting to its original form when not in use.

After receiving interest from the Clerkenwell events team, we started to think about how the Playbox could assist events, how it would be managed and where it would be located. We believed that multiple play boxes could form different characters around Clerkenwell, distinguished by size and build material. Whilst having individually distinct persona's, they would reference back to one another and serve as visual markers around the festival.

Clerkenwell sought for the first playbox to be located in Design Fields, inhabited by Newby Teas for the duration of the festival. A fresh conversation with CDW and Newby Teas commenced whereby the Playbox grew into a 'Big Sister,' installation, increasing to a 1200mm x 1200mm unit. The Shape London design team started to look into the influence of antique tea caddies and carpentry that has supported the tea industry over the centuries. This Playbox adopts the character of an ornate modern day tea caddy which is beautifully yet discreetly decorated. The Big Sister will be made from black multi-wall, a versatile and sleek material which has been kindly provided by James Latham. She will open to serve the tea and when closed continues to sit as a bespoke piece of furniture to be admired from every angle.

Soon after, Pentagon and Peronda Tiles sought to collaborate with our team to facilitate a second Playbox. They wanted to inhabit the original Playbox design for the duration of the festival and after discussions with CDW, Brewhouse Yard became the home to the 'Little Brother' Playbox. The Playbox was to provide the same opportunity to socialise and entertain as initially intended, but would also provide Peronda with a place to exhibit their work and create a play event of their own. We thought to clad this Playbox in cork to create a textured contrast to the tiles which line the inside.

All our work at Shape London goes through a bespoke design process where all opportunities are explored through sketching and computer modelling, before being modelled in SolidWorks ready for fabrication.

Shape London utilises the latest digital fabrication techniques and machinery as well as drawing on years of bench joinery experience. Ultimately, we believe the precision of digital fabrication and the craft of bench joinery should work in harmony to create a truly unique and beautifully crafted piece of timeless furniture. The Playbox will be digitally fabricated to demonstrate the opportunities that modern methods of construction enable us to create, whilst showcasing the best of hand joinery detailing. We will be posting a Go Pro video from our workshop showing the production of the Playbox once complete.

We will be hosting a series of creative events during the festival, please check our website for the latest schedule.

We look forward to meeting you all at Clerkenwell Design Week - come see what we see.

The Shape London and Fraher Team


James Latham have kindly provided all sheet material for both Playboxes.

Current Phase have kindly installed all electrics on both Playboxes.