- Year / 2008
In February 2006, The Royal Institute of British Architects approached Barber & Osgerby to reconsider the design of the entrance foyer at their headquarters at 66 Portland Place in London. Built in 1934 by Architect Grey Wornum, the building is an icon, a beautiful and established landmark in the heart of London. A strong Arts and Crafts influence runs throughout the internal and external structure, from the decorated bronze front doors and sculpted figures to the etched glass screens and wooden paneling of the interior. These works were all collaborations with notable artists and designers of the time.
The aim was to update the tired and functionally useless existing reception desk, a lump of travertine, which had been in use since the 1970s. It was crucial to reflect the attention to detail, craftsmanship and gravitas of the architecture, whilst at the same time articulating the new desk as a distinctly modern insertion.
The RIBA needed a technologically equipped and accessible desk that would seat two members of staff. Months were spent developing the sculptural form of the desk in card, foam-core and timber. It was originally thought that the RIBA might have envisaged a piece with a strong color; a grand expression of modernity.
Instead Barber & Osgerby decided to wrap the desk in a skin of hand-beaten stainless steel. The steel was mirror polished so that it reflected its entire surroundings. So although the form is strong, complex and incongruous, it is also subtle and camouflaged through its own reflections.