Tom Dixon celebrates our 20th anniversary in the form of aan extraordinary travelling exhibition.
TWENTY presents modified, upgraded and rethought innovations that provide a reflective yet future-thinking overview of the most popular design pieces Tom Dixon has developed since the brand’s inception two decades ago.
We visit Milan and London to showcase 20 unseen creations.
7 - 12 JUNE 2022
Tom Dixon returned to Milan to mark our 20th anniversary in the form of an extraordinary exhibition, coinciding with Salone del Mobile.
New innovations were showcased in not just one but two locations. Palazzo Serbelloni, is a neoclassical palace, home to Sotheby’s galleries and offices, and to our TWENTY exhibition. The Manzoni, our hub in Milan, showcased our existing best-sellers and new range items.
Open 10am - 7pm
We hosted an extraordinary Breakfast in Palazzo Serbelloni, curated by Francesca Sarti from food design studio Arabeschi di Latte.
We hosted a candlelit Drinks Party in the courtyard of Palazzo Serbelloni, Milan, to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Thank you to our 1,000 extraordinary guests who joined us. And thanks to Champagne LALLIER for powering the event.
TOUR OF TWENTY EXHIBITION AT PALAZZO SERBELLONI
Tom Dixon takes you on a journey around the TWENTY Exhibition in Palazzo Serbelloni, a neoclassical palace where Sotheby’s have their Milan showroom and offices. Introducing the latest extraordinary creations on display, focusing on innovation and materiality.
WRAP UP OF TWENTY SALONE
Thank you Milan! Our TWENTY exhibition wraps up today, as Salone del Mobile comes to a close. Thank you to the 12,000 visitors who saw the exhibition at Palazzo Serbelloni, our partners, friends, and team, who all joined us in Milan.
We hosted a Press Preview, Talk at the Manzoni and a candlelit Party for 1,000 guests in the courtyard of Palazzo Serbelloni. We launched new products and revealed 20 limited-edition innovations – all to celebrate our first 20 years.
See you next time in New York City and at London Design Festival in September - the next stops on our TWENTY tour. Stay tuned...
UNVEILED IN MILAN
We have been challenging ourselves and our factories to reduce our impact on the environment, so this monumental vertical Mirror Ball chandelier is the first prototype (inspired by one of our oldest designs) in a 100% recycled polycarbonate. The change in optical quality is imperceptible and is a demonstration of the opportunities now available in a rapidly changing landscape to try harder to find more credible alternatives to virgin materials.
In our endless search for what we describe as ‘Expressive Minimalism’, we tried to strip back as much complexity as possible and get to the essence of an object.
With our lamp, Globe we have gotten close to that aim with a seamless sphere of injection blow-moulded recycled polycarbonate. Internally coated with an exceedingly thin layer of aluminium vapour, we achieve a surface which appears to be a solid orb of stainless steel when switched off and when turned on reveals a hidden world of luminous optical illusions.
We wanted to produce a beautifully engineered framework to hold 20 of the globes in a perfect circle, making a substantial chandelier with confident illumination, somehow reminiscent of a science museum model of the movement of the planets.
We’ve all seen dichroic effects – maybe on cheap novelty sunglasses in Camden Market, on the surface of early Roman glass in the British Museum - yet it’s a finish that has always fascinated us.
When we looked at updating Melt, rather than offering a new shape, a new size, or a new colour, we decided instead to filter the light with a Dichroic filter. The effect of the coated component is to channel the light of our powerful LED driver into constituent parts of the spectrum, giving the already crazed internal reflection an additional chromatic boost and an unexpected space-age aesthetic to this otherworldly lamp.
Our first custom Melt is an exploration into the amazing world of Dichroic filters – highly technical coatings first invented by NASA that allow white light to be split into multiple colours. For us, this means that we move from a monochromatic metallic in silver or gold to extraordinary psychedelic technicolour.
A year of investigation into high technology methods of forming and rigidising thin aluminium sheet last year gave us the Hydro chair, an exercise in shape and expression through structure. The big, rounded ribs that characterised that design also catch the light in a pleasing way, which made us start thinking about an illumination object.
Aluminium is light and reflective and is often used in huge factory lamps or as photographic reflectors. It is perfectly suited to making an oversized hanging disc that can be angled to direct light towards walls, dark corners or directly downward. The overexpressed softly rounded ribs catch and diffuse the light and this mega reflector is equally at home in low ceiling spaces as well as vast lobbies or warehouse conversions
Several years ago, we designed the Etch lamps as an exercise in creating the optimum lampshade for the digital world. Made through digital photo acid etching it was to be sold direct to consumers online and was originally packed into a medium envelope to be posted through a letterbox. The only problem was that very few customers had the time and patience to assemble the panels, and they demanded the item come constructed.
The original shape was therefore very angular and geometric to suit the shipping method, so it was time to update, to soften and modernise the shape, which is what we have done to Etch Puff; a softer, larger and more satisfying Etch altogether.
There is something mesmerising about tall buildings that is inescapable. Now we might never get the chance to build a proper skyscraper, but we can always dream, so these objects become domestic architecture, or models of future towers that are currently just masquerading as lamps.
The nature of sustainability is more than complex and has a multidimensionality. The one thing that we can say for certain is that our industry has slow consumption patterns (when is the last time you bought a table for instance? When will you buy your next one?) If we can build-in true longevity where the product survives generations through timeless designs and quality materials, then we can claim at least best practise.
Our symbolic project in this regard was created for a sculpture exhibition at Sudeley Castle, a Tudor mansion that had burnt down, along with all its furnishings, three times in the last 1100 years. This got us thinking about what we could make that might survive fires and wars, pestilence and floods.
So, we set about making a set of archetypical furniture objects in the unusually heavyweight material of inch thick plate steel. Normally used in the production of army tanks, bridges and cruise liners, we are confident in issuing this chair a ‘thousand-year guarantee’ in an unstoppable ambition to develop eternal life in our products
Wolf Hilbertz, a scientist active in radical architecture and conservation in the 1970’s, had been working on a proposal for growing cities under water. His experiments culminated in the discovery of a process that allowed for the creation of artificial reefs and the speeding up of the rate of coral growth using a process called Biorock.
When a small amount of low-voltage current (typically generated by solar power) is passed through a metal framework, a chalky deposit similar to limestone will grow at an accelerated rate in a phenomenon known as mineral accretion, which may be a way of capturing carbon and of re-generating the quickly disappearing coral reefs. The idea that we could eventually look at growing furniture underwater rather than fabricating it in landlocked factories appeals to us.
At the time of writing, these Accretion chairs are now in their third year of aquaculture at a secret address in the Bahamas, almost ripe for harvest.
fat work & slim
Fat Work is certainly a reaction to the need for more domestic work seating, or conversely more attractive task chairs. Fat was always a chair with great lumber support and a perch that allowed for unconventional sitting, however, to make it useful for the kind of occasional work-use that we now all engage in, we wanted to add a swivel, a 5 prong pedestal base and height adjustment – so VOILA! As a result, Fat Work was born.
We launched the Fat chair three years ago because of an urgent need for a minimalist yet extremely comfortable chair of generous proportion. However, sometimes, in more constrained circumstances, our dining chair is simply too plump! So, we’ve started thinking about the amount of materials in the chair, the cost and sustainability benefits of using less foam yet keeping the character of Fat. This sparked the brainwave to create Slim – this time with the opposite characteristics of a thin tube, reduced bulk of upholstery and the important feature of stack-ability. Upholstered in Kvadrat Raf Simons’ Silas fabric, an exceptionally soft and voluminous material complementing the curvaceous shape of Slim and his big brother Fat Work
The mysterious world of mushrooms has recently exploded into one of the most exciting sectors of scientific study, where a seemingly never-ending stream of extraordinary revelations about the power of Fungi is attracting huge interest in what was previously a hidden world.
We first discovered some of the newly exposed potential whilst seeking alternative packaging possibilities for our products, however with our partners at Magical Mushroom Company, we felt that the new alternatives to polystyrene deserved to be applied to more long-lasting possibilities than just single use boxes.
We discovered that Mycelium bound Hemp made an unusually effective scent diffusing material, and as a result we are experimenting with new means of enhancing the fresh fragrances that we have just developed. We are looking forward to an olfactory experience on our two new fragrances Root and Underground – both based on plant rhizomes, turmeric and ginger which inhabit the earth alongside the Mycelium networks.
The search for credible alternatives to synthetic foams has been frustrating, with very few possibilities to chuck out the petrochemicals in favour of a less disreputable material that performs to an equivalent level.
However, suddenly there is a flurry of activity in a wide variety of material types, and we see, for instance plant-based leather either grown in a lab or processed from other flora such as pineapple. We worked with U.S based innovators Evocative to produce moulded foam components for our objects made of Mycelium, which is grown onto the subframe.
For our latest designs, we are using cork for its amazing sculptural presence utilising big solid blocks to make imposing designs, which include a chaise longue, mirrors and side tables. The dark, textured finish and the process of caramelizing the cork not only delivers a strong aesthetic language but also makes the pieces extremely fragrant. The added benefit of a sound dampening material that absorbs sound is a very useful asset in acoustically challenged environments.
But the last asset that has seduced us is the carbon positivity of this wonderful material, which is a result of the nurturing of the Cork Oak forests and the gentle way the cork is removed without killing the tree which gives the material an unusual and much needed attribute.
BIRD EEL GRASS
In the 17th Century in the waters of the Jutland Peninsula on the island Læsø, eelgrass was originally grown. Islanders collected the abundant washed ashore eelgrass to thatch their roofs, with the renewable material providing long durability, high fire resistance and low susceptibility to mold. However a rampant fungal disease wiped out majority of the eelgrass.
More recently a collaboration between Danish architects, engineers and thatchers has resulted in eelgrass being reinvented into factory-made acoustic insulation and upholstery mats that represent a real alternative to synthetic options. This wonder material also binds significant amounts of CO₂ while growing in the sea and has the benefit of serving as an efficient carbon sink when used in construction or furniture.
We wanted to see if we could use it as a substitute to petrochemical-based materials in our Bird chair - the bold sculptural foam providing a simple platform to test the comfort qualities of this promising new use for traditional material. We collaborated with Danish material manufacturers Søuld, who have unlocked the benefits of eelgrass and reinvented the proven, time-honoured material for the benefit of the modern design and building industry.
The archetypical spherical and collapsible paper lantern has been the standard issue default lamp for generations, used in student apartments, fashion shops or Japanese restaurants – softly emanating an ethereal glow in the most honest and reduced way possible.
Noguchi, the Japanese American artist took Japanese traditional mulberry paper and made luminous sculptures that 70 years later stand the stylistic test of time. Paper lanterns were Tom Dixon’s earliest foray into lighting and here we have taken these early ideas with inspiration from skyscrapers and space rockets to make luminous domestic towers intended to illuminate large spaces with a warm diffused luminescence.
A long time ago we designed the interior of Shoreditch House, and we thought we would modernise the traditional wingback chair by tidying up the silhouette. We didn’t realise for a while that people were using the wings to make discreet phone calls and by default we made a traditional typology of a chair fit for the modern co-working/play-space everywhere. We decided it was now time to push this thinking further.
Could we add more comfort or functionality? Should we make the wings even more pronounced? Surely a rotating pedestal base would add to the character and ease of use? Could we extend the width of the arms enough to balance a laptop or a drink or extend the seat to form a chaise longue hybrid? Here we show ourselves as generally trying to improve our product and unable to stop iterating and fiddling.
The S Chair is in a constant state of evolution, having reinvented itself multiple times since its inception.
This year we wanted to celebrate the origins by experimenting with latex – in our view an under-appreciated material in the sustainability debate, as its origins are from the rubber tree mainly found in the Amazon. We also wanted to experiment with the inflatable qualities that natural rubber possesses and have worked with celebrated rubber couturier Nange Magro, best known for dressing Madonna, Britney Spears and Gigi Hadid in some of their most iconic looks. Somewhere between the comfort of an inflatable mattress, fetish club-wear and high fashion, this concept chair has allowed us to explore sustainable materiality, comfort and new ways of sitting all in one package
TWENTY is located within Palazzo Serbelloni, a neoclassical palace situated in the heart of Milan.
Originally constructed by the architect Simone Cantoni for the aristocrat Gabrio Sebelloni two centuries ago, Palazzo Serbelloni was one of the first stately homes to be built on Corso Venezia, a carriageway built in Milan in the late 18th and 19th century. Completed in 1794, the palace became a key location for political events.
The interior retains some prior features, some reconstructed. Behind the walls of Palazzo Serbelloni lies one of Milan’s largest private courtyards encircled by a four-sided neoclassical portico.
17 - 25 SEPTEMBER 2022
Founder and eponymous Creative Director Tom Dixon is a restless innovator who rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as a maverick, untrained designer with a line in welded salvage furniture. While working with the Italian giant Cappellini, he designed the widely acclaimed ‘S’ Chair. In the late 90’s Tom became Creative Director at Habitat and rejuvenated the brand while maintaining Terence Conran's vision of enriching everyday life through simple, modern design. In 2001, Tom was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to British design. In 2014 he was awarded ‘Designer of The Year’ at Maison & Objet, Paris. In 2019, he received a silver medal for Best Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and in the same year, was awarded the prestigious London Design Medal at the British Land Celebration of Design Awards. Tom is one of the industry’s most feted British designers and is internationally heralded as a significantly original talent.
Established in 2002, Tom Dixon is a British luxury design brand which is represented in 90 countries. Specialising in furniture, lighting and accessories, Tom Dixon has hubs in London, Milan, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Hangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. With an aesthetic that is intrinsically inspired by the brand’s British roots, the products are internationally recognised and appreciated for their pioneering use of materials and techniques. Best-selling products such as Beat, Melt, S-Chair and Wingback are instantly recognisable and have been acquired by the world’s most famous museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; MOMA, New York; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Latest additions to the brand’s range, such as the Fat chair and Spring lights are quickly gaining momentum and reiterate Tom’s status and significance in the design world.