The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London, England, invited French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to help celebrate the London Design Festival by transforming any V&A gallery space they chose with an installation. The Bouroullecs selected the Raphael Court, a cavernous space displaying seven grand-scale Raphael “cartoons” that the 16th century Renaissance painter created as designs for tapestries that, once completed, hung in Rome’s Sistine Chapel under the fresco ceilings of his rival, Michaelangelo. The designers, in collaboration with Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat, installed 2,500 square feet of viscose and wool fabric, foam and wood in the Raphael Court, allowing patrons to lounge and contemplate art in an undulating textile field.
The Raphael Court “has this quality of a church,” says Erwan Bouroullec, “a really wonderful volume, but then in a way it makes you feel too small.” Textile Field closes the distance between art and viewer, allowing visitors to appreciate the works in informal comfort. The installation consists of a series of padded and upholstered oblong tiles in varying shades of green, blue, grey and white running the length of the Court. The central row of tiles is flanked by rows that slope gently upward, creating the sense of a park with varied elevations and perspectives. Textile Field was created specifically for the Sept. 17-25 festival, but “when we see how simply this works, we see how it could work well in other spaces, too,” says Ronan Bouroullec.